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A8SYNT, - - - - PAGE 105 

CLYNK, - - - - 149 

CRIECH, - - - - 17 

DORNOCH, .... 1 

DURNESS, .... 82 


KARR, .... 66 

UOLSPIE, - - - - 24 

KILDONAN, .... 133 

LAIRG, •> - - - j8 

LOTH, .... 188 

ROGART, ... 46 

TONGUE, - - - - 164 


' *j 







I. — Topography and Natural History. 
Name. — " The town and parish of Dornoch," says the writer of 
' the last Statistical Account, " derive their name from the Gaelic 
words Dom^Eich^ which signify a horse's foot or hoof, — there be- 
ing a current tradition to this eflfect: — About the year 1259, the 
Danes and Norwegians having made a descent on this coast, were 
. attacked by William, Thane or Earl of Sutherland, a quarter of 
\' a mile to the eastward of this town. Here the Danish general was 
~.) slain, and his army beaten, and forced to retire to their ships, 
t^ which were not far distant. The Earl of Sutherland greatly 
signalized himself upon this occasion ; and appears, by his personal 
• valour and exertion, to have contributed very much to determine 
.^the fate of the day. While he singled out the Danish general, 
- and gallantly fought his way onward, the Thane, being by some 
accident disarmed, seized the leg of a horse which lay on the ground, 
and with that despatched his adversary. In honour of this exploit, 
and of the weapon with which it was achieved, this place received 
the name of Dorneich, or Dornoch, as it is now called. This tra- 
dition is countenanced by the horse-shoe, which is still retained in 
the arms of the burgh." 

Extent and Boundaries. — This parish extends in breadth 9 miles 
from E. to W. along the coast of the Frith of Dornoch ; and in 
length from S. to N. or N. W. about 15 miles. It is bounded 
on the east by the Little Ferry, which separates it from the pa- 
rish of Golspie ; on the north and west by the parishes of Ro- 
gart and Criech ; and on the south by the Dornoch Frith, which 
separates it from the county of Ross. 

The parish may be considered as a sort of peninsula ; the Dor- 
noch Frith, which extends considerably beyond it, bounding it on 
the south, and the estuary of the Little Ferry on the east, which 



runs up to the Earthen Mound, rising with a gradual inclination 
from the sea to a range of hills behind. 

Topographical Appearances. — There are no high grounds in this 
parish which deserve the name of mountain, although the name has , 
been given to some of them, as Beintarvie, &c There is a ridge 
of hills behind Skibo, another behind Rearchar, and a third in 
the vicinity of TorboU. The ground on the side of the parish 
next the sea is generally flat ; in some places almost a dead level, 
with the exception of some sandy hillocks, interspersed here and 
there, some of which are naked, and some half-clad with bent and 
whins, afibrding a place of refuge for rabbits. 

There are two valleys, or, more property speaking, straths, in 
this parish : the one. Strath Caimaig, formed by the rivpr Cair- 
naig. This valley stretches south from Torboll for the space of 
some miles. The other. Strath Achvaich, is near the source of 
the river Evlix, and is of no great extent 

There is a considerable stretch of sea-coast in the parish, from the 
extreme point of the Meickle Ferry on the west, down the Dornoch 
Frith, to the mouth of the Little Ferry on the east, — and thence up 
that estuary for some miles. The shore is flat and sandy, with the 
exception of a few small rocks to the east of the town, and on the 
shore of Embo. At the Little Ferry, there is an excellent harbour, 
where vessels may lie in great security, after having got over the 
bar which runs across the entrance. Coal ships also drop anchor 
below the town to discharge their cargoes. 

Meteorology^ 8^c. — The'climate may be called mild and healthy,* 
considering the northern latitude. Snow seldom remains long on 
the sea-coast ; and for several years there have not been the same 
heavy and long-continued falls of snow and the same intense frosts 
as in former times. 

Among the prognostics of unfavourable weather may be noticed 
the tremendous noise that proceeds from the sand banks called 
Gizzing^Briggs^ so called from the peculiar sound they make. 
These banks lie almost in the middle of the channel betwixt the 
northern side of the Frith of Dornoch and the coast of the parish 
of Tarbet, and render the navigation up the Frith extremely dan- 
gerous, especially to strangers, without the assistance of a pilot. 
It is observed, also, that the appearances of the Aurora borealis, 

* As a proof of the mildness of our climate, pheasants have been recently intro- 
duced at Skibo : they are doing well, and are likely to increase. Walnuts also fre- 
quenUy ripen in the garden at Skibo ; and a very fine Ilex tree growing there is a 
proof of the fiivourable climate. 


which are sometimes very vivid, are commonly followed by cold and 
stormy weather. 

The prevaittng distempers are rheumatism, consumption, and 
inflammatory fevers. 

Hydrography. — The Frith of Dornoch extends at least twenty 
miles beyond this parish. From the Meickle Ferry to the Little 
Ferry, the water is stronglj^'impregnated with salt, and is found ex- 
cellent for bathing during the summer months. — In the hilly part 
of the parish, there are a few lakes, in which a variety of trouts 
is found, but generally small, and little sought after. — In this 
parish there are the rivers Carnaig and Evlix. The Carnaig 
takes its rise some miles south of Torboll, and empties itself 
into the Fleet on the sands of Torboll, up to which the tide 
at one time flowed, till arrested by the Earthen Mound. The 
Evlix takes its rise about the head of Strath Achvaich ; and, after 
running about eight or nine miles, with a considerable population 
on each side of it, and its banks beautifully wooded with natural 
birch and alders, it empties itself into the Dornoch Frith, not far 
from the Meickle Ferry. These rivers are not large ; but during 
winter thaws, or heavy rains in summer, they rise rapidly, overflow 
their banks, and in their progress sometimes do considerable 
damage to corn lands. 

Mineralogy, — Coal was found at Clashmore in this parish ; it 
was submitted to Sir Humphry Davy's inspection, and by him pro- 
nounced to be similar to that of Brora. The seam is said to tra- 
verse Ross-shire, and become visible in Coigach. There is a con- 
^siderable freestone quarry in the neighbourhood of this town, from 
which stones for building houses and erecting fences are taken. 
There is another on the estate of Embo ; and several inferior ones, 
fit for fences, have recently been discovered in other parts of the 

Zoology, — In this parish are to be found badgers, foxes, otters, 
hares, rabbits, roe-deer, and occasionally red-deer ; also grouse, 
black game, partridges, &c. 

There is nothing in this parish that deserves the name of a 
salmon fishing. Abundance of excellent cockles may be found near 
the town when the tide recedes, and westward to the Meickle Fer- 
ry. They are much sought after in their season, and carried to 
a considerable distance in the interior of the country. 

There are also two muscle-scalps near the Meickle Ferry, the 
property of Mr Dempster of Skibo. The Buckie fishermen re- 


pair thither with their large boats for bait, and pay a certain sum 
to the proprietor for each boat-load. 

IL — Civil History. 

Eminent Men. — Among the eminent men connected with this 
parish may be mentioned Sutherland, Lord Duffus, who had a re- 
sidence in Skelbo, the ruins of which are still visible: also the Gor- 
dons of Embo, now represented by Sir Orford Gordon, who re- 
sides in England. The heads of these families acted a conspi- 
cuous part in the feudal quarrels and wars of their times. 

Connected with this parish also, by purchase of lands and by re- 
sidence, were George Dempster, Esq. of Dunnichen, and John Ha- 
milton Dempster, Esq. his brother. These gentlemen were of a 
younf^r branch of the ancient family of Dempster of Muresk, in 
the county of Aberdeen, as may be seen by reference to Douglas' 
Baronage of Scotland : * and their grandfather had acquired, 
shortly after the year 1700, the estate of Dunnichen, in Forfar- 
shire, which is now the property, and gives the designation, of the 
elder branch of his descendants. 

Mr George Dempster purchased the estate of Skibo in the year 
1786, and Mr J. H. Dempster shortly after purchased the estates 
of Pulrossie and Over- Skibo. The estates of Skibo and Over- 
Skibo had been purchased from gentlemen of the name of Gray. 
But the estate of Skibo had also been possessed for a few years 
-previous to the last Mr Gray by the Honourable George Mackay 
of Reay, by whom the older portions of its woods were planted, and 
to whoso taste and industry that part of the parish is much in- 

Mr George Dempster was for twenty-eight years member of Par- 
liament for the Dundee and St Andrews district of burghs. He 
was most active and assiduous in devising measures himself, and in 
encouraging measures planned by others, which had for th^r ob- 
ject the improvement of his native country. He took an active and 
leading part in promoting its manufactures, its fisheries, and its agri- 
culture. He was a gentleman of great benevolence and suavity of 
manners. While he and his brother remained in Skibo, they were 
much respected by all ranks; and as landlords, they were kind and 
indulgent to their tenants. Mr Dempster died a. d. 1818^ aged 86. 

The noble family of Sutherland have a burying-place within the 
church, where the mortal remains of several of its members are 
laid. Over it a neat monument has been erected to the memory of 
the last Earl and the Countess of Sutherland, the parents of the now 

• P. 5iU, 


Duchess Countess of Sutherland, who both died in the flower of 
youth, the one ten days after the other, at Bath, in the year 1766, 
and were buried in one grave in the church at Holyrood- House. 
His lordship had only attained the age of thirty-two, and her lady- 
ship that of twenty-six. This amiable pair were not less ennobled 
by their shining virtues than by their high rank. Their humane 
dispositions and condescending manners had greatly endeared them 
to all orders of society : and their untimely death was deeply felt 
and universally deplored. 

A melancholy event which occurred in July 1833 added to the 
number of those belonging to the noble family of Sutherland, whose 
mortal remains are deposited in the cathedral of Dornoch. George 
Granville Leveson Gower, first Duke of Sutherland, died at Dun- 
robin Castle on the 19th day of July 1833. His Grace's remains 
are laid in a place prepared for them in the south aisle of the ca- 
thedral ; over which, it is said, the Duchess Countess of Sutherland 
proposes to raise a statue of his Grace, to be executed by Chantry 
of London. The death of the Duke of Sutherland produced a 
deep and universal feeling of regret among all ranks in this country; 
for his Grace was highly respected by all as a nobleman of most 
honourable principles, and having the comfort of his numerous te- 
nantry at heart* His funeral was attended by the gentlemen and 
tenantry of thirteen parishes in this county, and by the tenantry 
of four parishes from his Grace's estates in Ross-shire ; and the 
procession strikingly testified to the high estimation in which his 
Grace was held, f 

Land-owners, — These are, the Duchess Countess of Sutherland ; 
George Dempster, Esq. of Skibo; Major George Gunn Munro 
of Poyntzfield; and Mrs Gordon of Embo. None of the principal 
land-owners reside in the parish, except Mr Dempster, 

Parochial Registers, — A register of baptisms has been kept, 
though sometimes not very regularly, since 13th August 1730 ; and 
a register of marriages, since 13th August 1734. These registers 
have been always under the charge of the parochial schoolmaster 
for the time being, who acts also as clerk to the kirk-session, and 
receives a small fee for every act of registration. When the school 

• Vide Golspie. 

f While preparations were making in the cathedral for the Duke of Sutlierland's 
funeral, a leaden coffin was discovered in the buiying-placeof tlic noble family, having 
a plate bearing an inscription that it contained the remains of John, the twentieth 
Earl of Sutherland, who " died June 27, 1733," a little more than a century before 
the Duke's death. His Lordship's coffin was covered with another, and laid up with 
all due reject and care in the same burying-placc again. 


became vacant, the registration was much neglected. Since the year 
1817, however, both registers have been kept correctly. 

Great inconvenience, and even loss to individuals, having been 
experienced from the want of a register of deaths, to which refe- 
rence could be made, — a register of that description has been kept 
by the minister of the parish since January 1821, which, if con- 
tinued by his successors, may prove useful to succeeding genera- 

Antiquities. — The picturesque remains of the old castle of Skel- 
bo, formerly the residence of the family of Sutherland, Lord Duf- 
fus, still remain. This castle was built on an eminence, rising ab- 
ruptly from the sea side, near the Little Ferry. 

The castle of Skibo, once a residence of the Bishops of Caith- 
ness and Sutherland, was demolished in the last century. Within 
its walls the celebrated Marquis of Montrose was confined subse- 
quently to his being taken in Assynt ; and from Skibo he was con- 
veyed to Edinburgh, where he was executed. 

In memory of the event which gave its name to the burgh, a 
stone pillar was erected on the spot, supporting at the top a cross, 
encompassed by a circle, which went under the name of the 
Earl's cross. The lapse of ages had, however, somewhat defaced 
this monument. But it has been repaired, and is still standing. 

III. — Population. 
By the Government census of 1821, the population of the town 

and parish was found to be 3100. By the census of 1831, it was 
3380 ; and would have been 300 more, had there not been a par- 
tial emigration to British America to that amount from the parish 
during that and the previous year. It is but justice to the landed 
proprietors to add, that this emigration was purely voluntary on 
the part of the emigrants ; that most of them left the parish in 
comfortable circumstances ; and that the situations which they left 
open were soon occupied by others. The population, it may be 
safely asserted, is still on the increase. 

The increase of population may be accounted for by persons" of 
various classes coming from the east and south country, and settling 
in the parish, — by a general inclination to marry young : when 
out farm-servants, of whom the number is considerably increased 
by the erection of large farms, get barracks for themselves, they 
marry : when a young man gets a croft of land, he marries : 
when a fisherman becomes possessed of a quarter share of a boat, 
he builds a house, and marries. Second marriages also, of which 


there are not a few, contribute to the increase of the population. 
There is one instance of a marriage in which both parties were 
married for the fourth time. 

1. Number of fiunilite in the parish, .... 644 

chiefly employed in agriculture, - - - 59& 

in trade, manufactures, and handicraft, 41 

2. The aferage number of marriages, for 7 years, - - 21-f 

births, for the same period, - . 82^ 

of the whole number of births during the 7 years, 900 were males, and 279 females. 
aTerage number of deaths, for 7 years, ... 441 

There is 1 person insane in the parish; 3 fatuous ; 3 blind, — 2 
of them by small-pox; and 1 dumb. 

Language^ Habits^ Sfc. of the People. — The vernacular language 
is still the Gaelic ; from which also almost all the names of places 
are manifestly derived. In that language, haile signifies a town. 
Hence Tor-^aile^ Kerr^haile^ Eun-iaile^ Skia-baile^ compounded 
of that word and others, signifying respectively mount, rock, fowl, 
wing; and these names indicate the figure, situation, or other cir- 
cumstances of the places to which they are applied. Some places 
in the vicinity of the cathedral have been denominated from the 
offices of those who formerly held them ; as Crofn Espig^ Au^ 
chintreasurich^ Auchinchanter^ signifying the Bishop's, Treasurer's, 
and Chanter's fields. This language has, however, lost ground 
considerably during the last twenty-five years, owing to the influx 
into the parish, from various parts of the kingdom, of persons who 
speak the English language, but especially to the introduction of 
schools, first Gaelic and then English, into every district of the parish . 
The predilection for the Gaelic language is, however, still manifest, 
from the well-known facts, that the common people prefer to use 
it in their ordinary intercourse, and that larger congregations at- 
tend public worship during the Gaelic services than during the 
English. Nevertheless, the English is making rapid encroach- 
ments on our ancient language; and it is not improbable that, 
in the course of sixty or seventy years, the latter may be ex- 

The habits of the people in regard to cleanliness have improved 
considerably. Instead of their feal-houses, in which it was scarcely 
possible to maintain cleanliness, they have now generally neat cot- 
tages, built of stone and clay, and harled with lime, having chim- 
nies, instead of the fire-place being in the middle of the house, as 
formerly, — there being then no outlet for smoke except by the 
door, or a hole in the roof. 

A great improvement has also taken place in their dress, parti- 


cularly Id that of the young of both sexes. This also they have 
learned from those who came from other parts to reside in the 

Potatoes have become the principal article of food here, as, in- 
deed, they are throughout all the Highlands. They serve as the 
chief subsistence of the people during one-half of the year, and 
with some even for two-thirds. Many of the people come from 
a a>nsiderable distance for cockles, of which abundance may be 
had in their season on the sands of Dorno(;h. They go also for 
haddocks to the fishing town of Embo ; and since the herring-fish- 
ing was established at Helmsdale, many go there, purchase and 
cure herrings, and carry them home in casks in their own small 
carts : they thus provide themselves with wholesome food. 

The people here are rather above the middle size. They are 
in general well-made and handsome, and the women, comely. 
On the whole, they are a moral and religious people ; industri- 
ous, peaceable, and respectful to their superiors. With very few 
exceptions they regularly attend public worship ; and their decent 
appearance on Sabbath days indicates their comfortable circum- 

Poaching and illicit distillation are now scarcely known among 

During the last three years there were 4 illegitimate births : 
but in three of the cases the parties were afterwards married. 

IV.— Industry. 
Agriculture and Rural Economy, — During the last fifteen or 

twenty years agricultural improvements have been carried on with 
wonderful activity, and to a great extent, in this parish, especially 
on the Sutherland estate. On that estate, there are 4000 acres of 
• arable land under the plough, besides 2000 acres of waste ground 
improved, and carrying crops. 

Improvements. — Among the improvements on waste-land it may 
be mentioned that the fresh-water lake, at a place called Balvraid, 
near the county road, has been thoroughly drained and prepared, 
and is now laid down in crop. The highly improved appearance 
of the spot holds out a prospect of remunerating \he expense in a 
few years. It may be observed also, that, by the erection of tjie 
earthen mound across the estuary of the Little Ferry, from thirty 
to forty acres of valuable carse ground, over which the tide for- 
merly used to flow, have been brought under the plough, and are 


now carrying heavy crops of wheat, &c. A still greater extent has 
been reclaimed on the Grolspie side of the estuary. 

The Contents of the principal farms on the Sutherland estate 
may be stated as follows : — Sidera, 196 acres ; Evlix, 154 ; Farms, 
(1820, 1821, 1822,) 344; Achley, 91; Pitgrudie, 133; Auchurach 
andAuchinchaunter, 84; Coull; 203; Skelbo,323; East Balvraid, 
192; West Balvraid, 54; Cambusmore, 104; Torboll, 145; 
Pronsienain, 89 ; Pronsienaird, 132 ; Kinauld, 100 ; Trentham, 
150, — all imperial acres. The parks are, at an average, from 10 
to 15 acres each. The average rent of old arable land is L. 1, 5s. 
per acre ; — that of improved waste land, 5s. 

Besides the principal farms which have been stated above, there 
are a great many lots, or small holdings, ranking from two to five 
or six acres, which are receiving yearly accessions from waste 
land by the industry of the occupiers ; and though the average 
rent of improved waste land be stated at 5s. per acre, it is a well- 
known fact, that many of these cottars pay only a rent of Is. each, 
some 2s., and so on, in a gradual scale, — an increase of rent not 
being so much the object of the noble proprietors, as the improve- 
ment of the soil, and the comfort of their numerous tenantry ; in 
which liberal objects they have succeeded. 

On the estate of Skibo there are 800 acres of arable land : and 
besides a great number of smaller holdings, there are four large 
farms, highly improved, and rented each at about L. 150. On 
this estate also, a good deal has been done in reclaiming waste 
land ; but much more in the parish of Criech, where the greater 
part of Mr Dempster's estate lies, and in which he has very ex- 
tensive plantations of firs and hard-wood. 

On the estate of the Duchess Countess of Sutherland in this 
parish, there are plantations to the extent of 2500 acres, consisting 
of Scotch firs and larches, birch, and hard-wood. To these it is 
in contemplation to make considerable additions. There are be- 
sides 300 acres of natural birch and alder. 

On Mr Dempster's estate there are plantations to the extent 
of 350 acres, a considerable part of which is hard-wood. There 
are some ashes and planes of great size. The rest consists of 
Scotch firs and larches. On the estate of Embo there may be 
from 30 to 40 acres of Scotch fir, but, though old, very stinted in 

On the estate of Embo there is only one large farm, consist- 
ing of about 200 acres of arable land, of which from 30 to 40 


have been reclaimed from waste land. It is enclosed and subdi- 
vided by stone fences, and in a high state of cultivation. The 
rest of the estate is let to small tenants^ and they, of late, have 
adopted a rotation of crops. 

Major Gunn Munro's estate in this parish lies in the vicinity of 
the burgh, and the greater part of it is well-farmed by a gentleman 
residing in the town. The rest of it is also well-farmed by two in- 
dustrious individuals, who now grow wheat, where they formerly cut 

The steadings on the large farms throughout the parish are 
generally good and commodious. Attached to several of them 
is a thrashing-machine. These are of various powers, according 
to the size of the farm. Some of them are wrought by water, and 
some by horses. 

The ordinary duration of leases here is nineteen years. 

Live-stock, — As to the live-stock in the parish, it is only ne- 
cessary to observe, that the breeds of black cattle and horses, 
particularly the latter, have been greatly improved of late years. 
Cheviot sheep have also been introduced into store farms, and have 
succeeded well. 

Husbandry, — The five-course shift is the rotation of crops 
adopted in the parish, — 1. oats ; 2. turnips and potatoes ; 3. barley 
and grass seeds ; 4. hay or pasture ; and, 5. pasture. On account 
of the low price of barley, the wheat husbandry has been recently 
introduced. The produce is sent on consignment to Leith, where 
it is sold at the prices of the time ; but the grower has to submit 
to a heavy deduction for freight, agency, &c. — not less than. 4s. 
per quarter. 

Bute of Wages, — The wages of farm-servants are various. The 
principal servant has generally L. 8 per annum, six bolls of oat- 
meal, a pint of skimmed milk per diem, or an agreed equivalent 
for it, — some eight, some ten barrels of coals, a certain extent of 
land for potatoes, and a free house. Young men hired by the 
half-year have from L. 2 to L. 2, 10s., with cost and lodgings. 
The wages of female-servants for the half-year are generally from 
L. 1, 10s. to L. 2, with victuals in the house. The wages of able- 
bodied men for day-labour are* from Is. to Is. 6d. ; those of the 
women, 6d., except when at harvest work, when they have Is. ; but 
no victuals in either case. 

The daily operations of various kinds that are necessary on 


large farms furnish employment to all in their vicinity who are able 
and willing to work. 

Quarries, 8fc. — There is a considerable freestone quarry in the 
neighbourhood of this town, from which stones for buUding houses 
and erecting fences are taken : and there have been several other 
quarries recently opened in other parts of the parish ; but none 
of these are equal to that in the vicinity of Dornoch, except one 
at Embo. 

Fisheries. — There is no regular fishery in the parish. There 
is, indeed, a colony of fishermen at Embo ; but they only fish for 
haddocks, small cods, flounders, &c. which they sell in the fresh 
state. The women carry the fish in creels on their backs to this 
town, and throughout the parish, and sell it as they best can. The 
fishermen also frequently go across with their boats to the shore 
of Tain, where they dispose of their fish to advantage. Of late 
years they have engaged in the herring-fishing, by hiring them- 
selves to fish-curers for the season, — the fish deliverable in the fresh 
state at so much per crane, and the nets being provided by the fish- 
ermen. The curers allow a certain quantity of whisky to each 
boat's crew. To the credit of the fishermen at Embo, it should 
be observed, that, with a few exceptions, they are sober and in- 
dustrious, and some of them pious. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Burgh. — Dornoch is the only market-town in the parish, and 

the only Royal Burgh in the county. It was erected into a royal 
burgh by a charter from Charles I. a. d. 1628. The council consists 
of fifteen members, including the provost, four bailies, a dean of guild, 
and treasurer. By the constitution and practice of the burgh, four 
of the councillors are annually changed. This is one of five which 
compose what is called the northern district of burghs. It has no 
landed property, nor any other source of revenue except the cus- 
toms levied at six annual fairs held here, and which are on the de- 
cline. But this may be accounted for by the recent establishment 
of two other fairs, — one in the village of Golspie, and another in 
the parish of Clyne, — and by the great number of retail-shops 
found here and there through the parish and the county. 

The population of the town is little more than 500, but appears 
to be rather on the increase. The Sheriff-substitute and Sheriff- 
clerk, one writer, two messengers-at-arms, reside in the town. We 
have also a post-office. The northern royal mail-coach passes through 
the town twice every day. This is an advantage to the burgh, as 


strangers travelling by the coach for business or for pleasure, may 
find good entertainment in a commodious and well-kept inn. 

There are here also five retail-shopkeepers, two saddlers, one 
baker, one butcher, (though not in constant employment,) three 
blacksmiths, three shoemakers, several house-carpenters, masons, 
tailors, and weavers. 

Within the last twenty years there was a considerable number 
of small uncomfortable feal-houses in the town ; but these gradual- 
ly gave way to neat and comfortable cottages, most of them two 
stories high. The streets are clean, and the approaches to the 
town from every quarter have been much improved. The com- 
munication with the town is open in every direction by excellent 
roads and bridges, which are kept in annual repair. The Maca- 
damizing system is adopted on the county roads. Indeed, the 
whole parish is intersected with roads and bridges ; and with these 
there is another great advantage, — there are no tolls. Not a toll 
is to be seen in the county of Sutherland. Hence, carriages, gigs, 
and carts may be seen on Sabbath days carrying some of the good 
people to church. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The church stands in the middle of the 
town. It consists of three aisles of the old cathedral, — the fourth 
has been long in ruins ; but these venerable ruins point out to the 
admiring beholder what was their ancient grandeur. 

Dornoch was formerly the seat of the Bishop of Caithness. 
The precise time of the erection of the See is not ascertained. 
Andrew, Bishop of Caithness, had his seat here in 1150: and in 
1222, Gilbert Murray was consecrated bishop. The latter is sup- 
posed to have built the cathedral. He died at Scrabster, in Caith- 
ness, where the bishops also had a residence in 1245; and was af- 
terwards canonized. A statue of him is still shewn in the church 
of Dornoch, under the name of St Gilbert, but it is not entire. The 
last bishop, Andrew Wood, was translated hither from the Isles 
in the year 1680, and remained till the Revolution in 1688. 

In the year 1570, the cathedral, (except the steeple,) was burnt 
by the master of Caithness ; but it " hath been of late re-edified 
and repaired by Sir Robert Gordon, tutour of Southerland, which 
work was interprysed and begun by John Erie of Southerland, 
last deceased, a little before his death." At what time the ca- 
thedral received its present roof, which is comparatively modem, 
I cannot ascertain. For a long time after it was occupied as a 

Presbyterian place of worship, the congregation met on the 



ground-floor, — which was also occupied as a burying-ground for fa- 
milies of distinction. But this was found to be most inconvenient 
and unwholesome, both for the minister and congregation, the roof 
being stupendously high, and the house very cold in winter. To 
remedy these inconveniences, it was agreed by all concerned, about 
sixty years ago, that the church should be lofted at the height 
of seven feet from the ground. To this upper story, which is the 
present place of worship, the ascent is by stairs from without. 
The last repair which was given to the church was in 1616, when its 
lofty roof was ceiled, and additional accommodation was given by 
the erection of a gallery in the easter aisle ; notwithstanding which, 
there is not yet sufficient accommodation for an increasing popu- 
lation. Another gallery is still necessary. The number of sit- 
tings in the church cannot be exactly ascertained; they are probably 
from 1000 to 1100; but it is a well known fact, that the pews are 
generally crowded to inconvenience, and that, in fine weather, some 
have to sit on the tops of the pews for want of room. Arrange- 
ments are, however, in contemplation, which may remedy this in- 
convenience. * 

The pews have been divided by the heritors according to their 
valued rents ; and their tenants have free access to them. So far 
as I know, there are no seat-rents exacted. The poor sit on the 
forms connected with the communion tables, and in the passages. 

The great body of the people are within six miles of the church; 
some at the distance of seven or eight miles, and in one district 
about twelve miles. The people in this last district are within a 
mile of the parish church of Rogart, where they attend public wor- 
ship. They are, however, catechised annually by their own parish 

The manse was built about sixty years ago. The last repairs to 
it were given in the year 1825, when some additional accommo- 
dations were given by the heritors. It ought to be recorded here, 
to the honour of the heritors of the parish, that no meeting of pres- 
bytery was rendered necessary during the last eighteen years to 
obtain the accommodations which the clergyman required. 

The glebe is about twelve imperial acres, all arable; but the 
greater part of it is of little value, the soil being so very sandy and 

* Since writing the above, the Duchess Countess of Sutherland has announced her 
intention of repairing the wester aisle» which has been so long in ruins, at her own 
expense, and to fit it up as a part of the place for public worship. Also to re- 
pair the other aisles of the cathedraL The work is to be commenced next spring. 
There are to be some free sittings for the poor. 


light, that during the high winds which prevail from March to June, 
it is drifted in every direction like fresh laid snow. 

The stipend was augmented on 6th February 1832, from four- 
teen chalders, and L.8, 6s. 8d., to seventeen chalders, and L. 10 for 
providing the communion elements. The victual is half meal, half 
barley, imperial standard weights and measures. 

There is one catechist in the parish, appointed by the Com- 
mittee on the Royal Bounty, with a salary of L. 7. 

There is no chapel of any description here : no Dissenters from 
the Established church; and only one family of Seceders, who 
almost regularly attend public worship in the parish church. 

The average annual amount of parochial collections for religious 
and charitable purposes may be stated at L. 28 or L. 30. 

Education. — There are seven schools in the parish, of which 
three are in the town, — the parochial school, a female school on the 
second patent of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian 
Knowledge, and another female school withd\it salary, the teacher 
depending on the school-fees. In the landward parish are two 
Fchools on the General Assembly's scheme, and two on that of the 
Glasgow Auxiliary Gaelic School Society; besides which, the people 
in remote small districts hire a young lad to teach their children dur- 
ing the winter quarter ; after which the school breaks up till next 
winter. The Holy Scriptures and the Assembly's Shorter Cate- 
chism are taught in all these schools. Many are taught also to read 
the Bible in Gaelic. Dr Thomson's English school-books are in- 
troduced into most of them. Arithmetic, book-keeping, English 
grammar, and Latin, are taught. The parochial schoolmaster has 
the maximum salary, with a large house and garden. The school- 
fees are of no great value, — not exceeding L. 6. The teachers 
belonging to the Glasgow Society have L, 14 each : those employ- 
ed by the General Assembly's Committee, have each L. 20 of sa- 
lary, besides fees. Suitable dwelling and school-houses are pro- 
vided by the heritors in all these cases. The schoolmistress at 
Dornoch has a salary of L. 8, with a good house and garden. 

It may be observed in general, that the fees in all these schools 
are of very little value ; that, so desirous are the people to give the 
advantages of education to their children that some are sent to 
school at the age of five ; that female education is better attended 
to than formerly ; and that during last winter nearly 500 attended 

About 7(J0 persons in the parish are unable to' read, above six 



years of age ; and about 250, betwixt the years of six and fif- 

Friendly Society. — There is a friendly society in this town of 
some standing; but it does not appear to be in a prosperous state, 
as last year its dissolution was talked of. 

Savings Bank. — A branch of a general savings bank for the 
county was lately set up here. Nothing can yet be said of it but 
that the people shew a desire to vest their savings in it. It is 
under the patronage of the noble family of Sutherland, who give 
every encouragement to the people to vest their money in it, and 
to promote provident habits among the working-classes. 

Poor and Parochial Funds, — The number of persons receiving 
parochial aid may be considered on an average at from 120 to 
130. The funds for the poor, which are distributed only once a 
year, consist of collections made in church on Sabbath days, in- 
cluding what is given on marriage occasions, which may amount to 
L. 36 ; the dues for the use of the mortcloths, amounting to about 
L. 3, 10s. ; an annual gratuity of L. 6 from the Duchess Countess 
of Sutherland ; and L. 25, the interest of L. 500. The late Duke of 
Sutherland, who did not need to borrow money, very humanely took 
this sum from the kirk-session, and allowed the above liberal inte- 
rest for it. The lowest sum which is given to any of the poor is 
6s,, the highest is L. 1, 5s. There is a strong tendency among the 
lower classes to apply for relief to the parish funds. It must be 
added, that the Duchess gives also annual gratuities to several poor 
and aged individuals, — one of which, I know, amounts to L. 4 ; and 
that, besides these stated gratuities, the Noble family always gives 
a liberal supply of victuals to the poor on their estates, in time of 

Prisons, — The only prison in the county is in this town. It 
was once the bishop's palace, which, from its remains, appears to 
have been a stately edifice. In 1567, George Earl of Caithness 
sent his son John with some of his people, to invest the town and 
Castle of Dornoch, of which the Murrays, a tribe attached to the 
noble family of Sutherland, had possessed themselves. The Mur- 
rays, no longer able to maintain the ground they had occupied, retired 
to the castle; upon which the master of Caithness burnt the town and 
cathedral; but still the besieged defended themselves in the castle 
for a month. At length, however, they were obliged to capitu- 
late. Whether the castle was dismantled at that time, I have no 
means of ascertaining ; but it is well known that it lay in ruins for 


a great length of time, till, in 1814, it was roofed and repaired; 
it has since been occupied as a court-house, a record-room, and 
a jail. The number of prisoners in the jail during the year 1833 
was 20. Of these three were for debt, six for smuggling, one 
for theft, and ten for assaults of various kinds. The prison is, 
upon the whole, comfortable and well-secured. One of the surgeons 
in the parish has a salary for attending any of the prisoners when 

/ni», 4*c. — In the town there is an excellent principal inn ; and 
also two houses licensed to sell whisky. One of these with the inn 
would be quite sufficient There arc two other respectable inns 
in the parish, one at the Meickle Ferry, and another at Clashmore. 
There arc three licensed houses in the parish, all of which could 
be well dispensed with, as they prove injurious to the morals and 
the means of the people, particularly of the young, among the work- 
ing-classes. It should be stated to the credit of the magistrates 
here, as well as throughout the county, that they have suppressed 
several of these dram-shops. 

Fueh — Coals imported from Newcastle have been used here by 
the better classes in town and country, for the last twenty years at 
least They are purchased at Dornoch, at from Is. lOd. to 2s. per 
barrel, and carried home in carts. Peats are still used by the com- 
mon people. 

September 1834. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 
Extent and Boundaries, — This large parish extends from the 

parish of Dornoch on the east to the parish of Assynt on the 

west, — a distance of not less than thirty-five miles. Its breadth 

is not, however, proportionate, varying from five to seven or eight 

miles in the eastern part, and narrowing towards the west. It is 

bounded on the north by the parishes of Dornoch and Lairg ; and 

the Frith of Dornoch and its continuation, the river Oykell, forms 

its southern boundary. 

Topographical Appearances. — The greater part of the parish is 
mountainous, or rather hilly, for, excepting at its junction with As- 
synt, there is no very great elevation. 

It contains numerous lakes, including those of Migdale, Gour, 
Laggan, Buie, Laro, &c.,— which all abound with small trout ; but 
none of these lakes are of any great extent. They have been exa- 
mined and found to contain no marl. 

Hydrography. — The rivers which find their way to the Frith of 
Dornoch in this parish are the Shinn, the Oykell and the Cassley, 
— the confluence of the two last of which forms the Frith, and is the 
point to which the tide flows. These rivers all contain salmon, 
and are regularly fished. Chalybeate springs are numerous. 

Mineralogy. — A mineralogical survey of part of this parish, 
made in 1789 by R. E. Raspe, a German mineralogist, employ- 
ed by Mr Dempster, reports that it does not contain any minerals 
worthy of notice. Coal, which is found in an adjoining parish, is 
not found here : and it is uncertain whether there be limestone. 

There is at Rosehall a small vein of fine-grained, ponderous, 
solid, bluish-gray manganese, as perfect and free of iron as is 



ever seen. It is not, however, above five inches wide, and would 
not repay labour. 

Soil — There is not in the parish very much variety of soil : 
the usual gravelly and peaty soil of the mountains preponderates 
over every other. There is some good clay soil at Pulrossie, at 
Flode, at Rosehall, and elsewhere on the shores of the Frith. 
At Rosehall is to be found fine natural meadow pasture ; and the 
hills are pastured by sheep and cattle. 

IL — Civil History. 
Land-owners. — The land-owners of this parish, and their valued 

rents, are as follows : 

George Dempster, Esq. of Skibo, - - L. 1195 

Her Grace the Duchess of Sutherland, • - 703 14 B 

Sir Charles Ross, Bart., - - - - 431 18 

Right Honourable Lady Ashburton, - - 400 

Dugald Gilchrist, Esq. of Ospisdale, - - . 253 6 8 

L. 2963 19 7 

Tlie last is the only resident heritor ; and the real rent, exclu- 
sive of salmon-fishings, may be about L. 3700 Sterling per an- 

Antiquities, — In the 11th or 12th century a contest of the 
inhabitants with the Danes is recorded to have occurred at Drin- 
leah, near Bonar Bridge, whence the invaders were driven back 
with great loss to their ships at Portnacoulter, — now the Meikle 

The extraordinary number of tumuli or graves on the scene of 
action, while they attest the truth of the tradition, and the great- 
ness of the slaughter, cannot fail to excite the wonder of reflect- 
ing persons at the great numbers who must have been engaged, 
and the consequent density of the population at that remote time. 
Many of these tumuli have been opened, but nothing was found 
except three or four large stones artificially arranged in each. 

On the summit of the Doune or hill of Criech there is a spe- 
cimen of those very puzzling relics of antiquity, the vitrified forts. 
It is considered by persons conversant with these appearances as a 
good specimen, and has been visited and described by Sir George 
S. Mackenzie, Bart., and by others. 

III. — Population. 

Population in 1801, • • . . . 1974 

IBll, 1969 

1B21, 2354 

1831, ----- . 2562 

. CRIECH. 19 

Number of families in the parish in 1831, .... 525 

chiefly employed in agriculture, - - ' - 407 

chiefly employed in trade, manufactures, and handicraft. 37 

The Gaelic language is spoken in the parish ; but the English 
has now gained so much ground, that it may be said to be spoken 
by the greater number of the inhabitants. 

IV. — Industry. 
Agriculture and Rural Economy — Wood, — There is a natural 

oak-wood of great beauty at Ledmore, the divided property of the 

Duchess of Sutherland and Mr Dempster of Skibo, of about 150 

acres. The bark of the portion which belongs to the latter owner 

was sold last year for L. 500, and that of the former was sold 

some years ago for a much larger sum. 

There is also some natural oak and birch at Rosehall, and in 
one or two other places ; but, excepting some large oaks, it is not 
valuable, nor attended to. 

The oldest planted wood in the parish is the hard-wood at Os- 
pisdale, and the fir-wood at Rosehall ; but this last, from being 
grown in a soil too rich, is considered of bad quality. 

A considerable extent, chiefly of fir and larch, was planted thirty 
or forty years ago on the estates of Skibo and Pulrossie ; and the 
present proprietor has already added upwards of 1500 acres, con- 
sisting of larch and fir, (chiefly the former,) with oak and other 
forest trees in smaller quantity. Mr Houston of Creech, (who 
has recently sold his property to the Duke of Sutherland) and Mr 
Gilchrist of Ospisdale, have also planted considerably; and, on the 
whole, the extent of growing wood in this parish cannot be less 
than 2500 acres, and on the estate of Skibo it is yearly increasing. 
All sorts of hard-wood sell readily, and at good prices, and the ex- 
port of pit-wood from the fir plantations is considerable. 

It has been found impracticable to ascertain the quantity of 
land cultivated and uncultivated, and the amount of gross pro- 

Rent — The largest corn farm in the parish yields about L. 300 
per annum, and there are half a dozen others giving betwixt L. 50 
and L. 200. 

The rent of sheep grazing is from 2s. to 4s., and of cattle from 
5s. to 10s. according to the size of the cattle and quality of the 

Husbandry, — There are no sheep-farms in this parish, except 
one at Auchinduich, occupied by Mr Marshall, the property of the 
Duchess of Sutherland, and one in Inverchasly, occupied by Messrs 


Rose and Murray, the property of Sir Charles Ross of Balna- 
gown. Baronet The breed of sheep in both these farms is chiefly 
Cheviot, and generally fetches the highest price. Improvements 
in these farms are carried to the highest pitch. The reclaiming 
of waste lands, draining, and irrigation, has been carried on in 
this parish by landlords and tenants, of late years, rapidly and suc- 
cessfully. The general duration of leases is from seven to nine- 
teen years. The farm-buildings on large farms, as well as inclo- 
sures, are in general complete and comfortable, and the small far- 
mers and cottars follow the example of their superiors. 

Quarries, — There are in the parish two quarries of whinstone, 
both very hard to work. 

Fisheries, — The only valuable river fishery is the salmon fish- 
ing of the river Shin, the property of the Duchess of Sutherland, 
who also has in lease all the salmon fishings along the Kyle, be- 
longing to the estate of Skibo, which are worked and generally 
with success by fishers employed under her Grace. 

Naviffotion, — No ships or vessels of any description belong to 
the parish. But several vessels trade to Bonar Bridge, of from 
30 to 60 tons burden, importing meal, coals, and lime ; and ex- 
porting fir props, wool, oak-bark, corn, and salmon. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Market'Town and Villages, — There are no market-towns in the 

parish, and the nearest is Dornoch. 

A village and cotton manufactory were established at Spinning- 
dale, by Mr Dempster of Dunnichen, in the latter part of the last 
century; but the destruction of the factory by fire in 1809 has 
been followed by the decay of the village. 

The centrical position of Bonar Bridge, situated at the great en- 
trance of the county, and at the junction of the Assynt, Reay, 
Caithness, and Ross-shire roads, has pointed it out since the erec- 
tion of the magnificent iron bridge in 1813, as the site of a fu- 
ture town. Mr Dempster is fcuing ground here, and a village 
has already arisen, which is gradually increasing by that slow and 
natural growth which experience has shown to be the most secure 
foundation of a town. The great Kyle markets, as they are cal- 
led, for the sale of the cattle of Sutherland and Caithness, are now 
held here, in the months of July, August, and September. A suit- 
able piece of ground is inclosed for the purpose, and the conve- 
nience of the public will be greatly promoted by the desertion of the 


very inconvenient place at Portenleik, where they have hitherto 
been held. 

Bonar Bridge is already a place of considerable export and im- 
port, having the advantage of depth of water sufficient for ship- 

There is no village at Newton, but it is used as a shipping place 
for the wool, com, wood, &c of this parish. 

Means of Communication, Bonar Bridge. — The first and most 
useful among the means of communication in the parish is the 
bridge of Bonar, consisting of one large metal arch and two smal- 
ler stone arches : it opens the communication between Sutherland 
and Ross-shires, as well as to the most distant parts of the coun- 
try, south and north. It was erected by Government and the 
county ; as were also the roads leading from it 

The first road, from Bonar to Assynt and the west coast, has 
three bridges ; one of two arches over the river Shin ; one of a 
single arch over the river Caslie ; and one of a single arch over the 
river Oykell. This public road runs through the parish from Bo- 
nar to within a few miles of the manse of Assynt, a distance of 
about thirty miles. The second public road from Bonar is by 
Lairg to Tongue, at the north coast. The third public road from 
Bonar (recently opened) is made through the middle of the pa- 
rish in mosses and hills, towards the Fleet Mound and the east 
coast of Sutherland. It extends within the parish a distance of 
seven miles, and has a bridge of one arch over a small river. The 
fourth public road from Bonar is towards Dornoch and the east 
coast This road within the parish extends a distance of eight 
miles, and there are two small bridges upon it at Spinningdale and 
Ospisdale. These four roads were made by Government and the 
county. There are, besides, several private roads with bridges 
through the different inhabited straths and glens ; which render 
the communication through the parish both easy and comfortable 
in all seasons of the year. 

Ecclesiastical State, — The parish church is situated near the 
shore, about nine miles from the east end of the parish, and up- 
wards of thirty miles from the west end. It is convenient for the 
greater part of the population from the river Shin in the west, to 
Ospisdale in the east The church was built in 1790, has been 
repaired at different periods, and is now in a good state. It accom- 
modates 500 persons. There are no free seats, except the commu- 
nion forms occupied by the poor. 


The manse was built in 1780, and has undergone many repairs. 
The glebe is about five acres in extent, and would be valued at 
L. 7. The stipend is fourteen chalders of victual, half barley, 
and half oatmeal, paid in money betwixt Yule and Candlemas, 
by the fiar prices ; there are also L. 10 of money allowed for com- 
munion elements. 

There is a mission at Rosehall in the west end of the parish, 
connected with the Royal Bounty. There is also a catechist paid 
by the Royal Bounty the sum of L. 7, 10s. with a small gratuity from 
the people. 

There are no Dissenters or Seceders of any description in this 
parish. 400 families attend the church, and from these about 700 
persons. Divine service is generally well attended by all ranks. 
The number of communicants attending the parish and mission- 
churches may average about 90. 

The average amount of collections yearly made in the parish 
and mission-churches for religious societies is from L. 9 to 
L. 12. 

Education, — There are three schools, viz. the parochial school 
in Criech, taught by Mr Patrick Murray and his son, Mr David 
Murray, student of philosophy. There are also two Assembly 
schools, one at Inverchaslie, and another at Whiteface. Both the 
Assembly schools are well attended and very successful, as may be 
seen by the Reports. The branches taught there are English 
and Gaelic reading and spelling ; writing, arithmetic, and book- 
keeping, and Latin, &c. 

The salary of the parish schoolmaster is L. 30 ; and the school- 
fees are from Is. to 3s. per quarter, according to the branches of 
education taught, but do not yield above L. 10 a year. The pa- 
rochial teacher had hardly any accommodation for upwards of twen- 
ty years back, being obliged to hve in a house that was falling over 
his head ; and, for the safety of his own life and that of his family, 
was obliged to quit that ruin and live in a hired house. The heri- 
tors promise to build one, but it is not yet begun. The ex- 
pense of education is various, — from 5s. to 14s. per annum. The 
people in general are very much alive to the benefits of education ; 
so much so, that the families who are at a distance from school club 
together to support a teacher that goes from house to house once a- 
week. Inveran and Linside in the mission are seven miles distant 
from any school, and fit present employ a teacher, who has generally 


from forty to sixty attendiughis school at Inversliin. Two additional 
schools are required, one at Inveran and neighbourhood, and one 
in Aurdale of Airdines, at each of which there might be an at- 
tendance of from forty to sixty. A very great and visible change 
to the better has taken place in the conduct and morals of the 
people within the last twenty years, during which time not less than 
eighteen teachers were introduced among them in different parts 
of the parish ; all these with stated salaries from different benevo- 
lent societies. There are still about 800 persons in the parish 
above six years of age unable to read, and about 400 in that 
state betwixt the vears of six and fifteen. 

Poor avd Parochial Funds. — The number of paupers at the 
parish church and mission may average about 140, who receive 
annually from the funds collected in church from ds. to 6s. each. 
The annual collections in the churches may amount to L. 16: and 
there is also the interest of L. 150, a fund in the Commercial 
Bank, Tain. The total amount for annual distribution is about 
L. 20. 

Inns^ Alehouses^ S^c. — Tliere is one inn at Bonar, and five or 
six alehouses in different parts of the parish ; but the people sel- 
dom exceed a necessary refreshment. 

September 1834. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 
Name. — The name of this parish is, in the Gaelic language, 

pronounced Goislibee. Situated in the maritime parts of the High- 
lands, the parish has, Uke many other places, in all probability, re- 
ceived its name from t|ie ancient northern invaders, who for a time 
were possessors of these parts. The attempts which have been made 
to derive the name from the Gaelic language seem forced and unsatis- 
factory. The ancient name of the parish was Culmallie,— denot- 
ing that the church or chapel had been dedicated to some tutelary 

Extent and Boundaries. — The form of the parish is an oblong, 
stretching along the coast ; its length is about eight miles, and 
breadth about six. The parish is bounded on the north by the 
parishes of Rogart and Clyne ; on the east by the latter and the 
Moray Frith ; on the south by that frith ; and on the west by 
the small inlet, which bears the name of Little Ferry^ and the 
stream called Fleet. 

Topographical Appearances. — The hills near the coast are, Beinn 
a Bhroffidlif which is about 1300 feet in height above the level of 
the sea; the Silver Rock and the HillofMorvich^ both much lower; 
and, in the interior, Beinn Horn 1712, and Beinn Lundicy 1464 
feet in height. In the middle of the parish there is a valley called 
the Glen ofDunrohin. Through this glen runs a stream called 
Golspie Buniy whose banks, for the space of about a mile, near the 
sea, present very beautiful and picturesque scenery. The range 
of hills, consisting of the Silver Rocky the Hill of Morvicky and others, 
in their vicinity, are rounded at the top, with a southern, seaward 
aspect The flat arable part of the parish lies chiefly between the 
coast-side hills and the sea, having the rude figure of a triangle, 
one of whose sides is formed bv the base of the hills, another bv 


the Little Ferry inlet, and the third by the sea-shore, with a con- 
siderable sinuosity. 

Caves. — In the former Statistical Account, two caves are describ- 
ed, — the one, Uaigh mhic Ghil Anndreis^ Gillander's Cave, in the 
eastern part of the parish ; and the other, Uaigh Thorcuily Tor- 
quil's Cave, in the hill above Dunrobin. It may be observed) 
that the former is on the face of a white sandstone rock, and seems 
to have been formed by the gradual action of the elements ; that 
the latter is in a loosely stratified red sandstone rock ; and that 
its formation appears to have been coeval with the present structure 
of the rock itself. The eastern half of the coast in this parish is 
mostly rocky, and the western low and sandy. 

Meteorology. — The climate of this, and of the adjacent parishes 
on the coast, may be considered temperate and mild. Snow seldom 
lies long on the ground; nor can the climate be called rainy. The 
east winds, indeed, which are not unfrequent, sometimes occasion 
cloudy and damp weather ; and, when they blow hard for a day or 
two, they bring with them much rain ; but this rain is almost uni- 
formly succeeded by a tract of fair mild weather. The south 
winds, which are the least frequent, are rarely accompanied with 
rain ; and it is in occasional showers only that the west and north- 
west winds bring rain. The gales from the north-west are here by 
far the hardest. Those dense fogs, which so often occur, on the 
east coast of the island, to the southward of us, are here of rare 

Ailments of the rheumatic kind are perhaps the most prevalent; 
but not in any remarkable degree ; nor can these be ascribed to 
any peculiarity in the climate. 

Hydrography. — The fresh-water lakes in the parish are Lochs 
Homy Lundie^ Farralarie, and Salachic^ none of which exceeds 
half a mile in length, or one-third in breadth. The Fleets which, 
as already observed, forms part of the western boundary of the 
parish, is the only stream connected with it that can be denomi- 
nated a river. It flows through the valley called Strathjleet. At 
its lower part, it is slow and meandering, and contains trout, and 
sometimes salmon. In the glen of Golspie^ there is a cascade, 
which, when there is any quantity of water in the stream, has a 
very fine effect The surrounding scenery has of late been greatly 
improved ; and the traveller, who rests at the inn, and who takes 
pleasure in such things, will find himself rewarded, in visiting it. 

Geology. — The following geological remarks, relative to this pa- 


rish, are copied from an original manuscript, at Duurobin Castle, 
written by the late eminent Sir Humphry Davy, President of the 
Royal Society : — " The primary hills, in the neighbourhood of 
Dunrobin, are composed of felspar, quartz, mica, and hornblende, 
forming different arrangements of porphyry, porphyritic granite, 
gneiss, sienite, and mica slate. There are very few veins in the 
rocks. The only veins I have seen are quartz, and in them there 
arc no indications of metallic formations. The decomposed rocks 
have left no fragments of quartz, which are usually found in abun- 
dance in metalliferous districts. 

^^ The highest secondary hills, in this district, extend in a line 
from Loch-Brora to Strathfleet," that is, through the northern 
part of this parish, ^^ and are composed of hard silicious sandstone 
and puddingstone, containing large fragments — some rounded, 
some sharp — of the primary rocks, particularly of the porphyritic 
granite, gneiss, and sienite. 

" The secondary rocks are more interesting. The mechanical 
deposits in them are evidently derived from the ruins of primary 
rocks ; and most of the fragments are such as may have been de- 
tached from rocks in the neighbourhood. The vegetable remains 
in the sandstone and the shells in the limestone are those common 
to such formations. The cement of the secondary rocks is gene- 
rally silicious; but in one stratum near Golspie, and extending 
along the coast, it is calcareous ; and the decomposition of the 
rocks forms an excellent marl. In this marl there is a blue sub- 
stance, having some of the external characters of phosphate of iron," 

In another manuscript, Sir Humphry writes thus : — " The 
soils of the coast side lands, between the Little Feriy and Helms- 
dale, seem to be formed principally from the decomposition of 
sandstone-rock, which in some parts approaches in its nature to 
shale. The soils in Strathfleet," — the lower parts of which 
partly lie in this parish, — " appear to have been produced by the 
decomposition of transition-sandstone and breccias. 

" The transition rocks of Sutherland are not numerous, and be- 
long, as far as I have been able to learn and examine, only to a 
small extent of country. Some of the high hills, in the immediate 
neighbourhood of Dunrobin and Strathfleet, must be regarded as 
belonging to this order of rocks. Beinn a BhragidJi^ rising imme- 
diately above (near) the castle, is composed of red transition sand- 
stone and breccia. Beinn Hom^ the Silver Hilly and all the moun- 
tains immediately above Loch-Brora, arc similar in their nature ; 


but their colours are various, — the sandstone being in some cases 
gray, in some white, and in others iron-brown. 

" In general the breccias, in these transition mountains, con- 
tain fragments of granite, porphyry, and micaceous schist, connect- 
ed by silicious cement; but, in a few cases, they contain fragments 
of marble, with a calcareous cement. A very remarkable breccia 
occurs at Golspie, near the inn, and at the east side of the burn, 
and a still purer one near Rhives, in which small blocks of marble 
are inserted. These calcareous breccias, in general, are in a state 
of decomposition, and a sort of marl is formed from the decay. 
"These rocks might, with as much propriety, be called secondary as 
transition rocks ; for though in some parts they abound in crys- 
talline matter, yet in others they are almost entirely composed of 
fragments. I have given them the name of transition by courtesy. 
Rocks of the rare kind are often associated with greywacke and 
crystalline stone ; and they are placed immediately upon the pri- 
mary rocks. I have never seen any greywacke or transition lime- 
stone in Sutherland. 

" The secondary rocks occupy but a small space, and are pro- 
bably incumbent on the red sandstone or breccia described. They 
occur in regular strata ; but their arrangement is very much dis- 
turbed. They appear to have been originally deposited, or formed 
parallel to the horizon ; but in most places this parallelism has 
been disturbed, either by the subsidence or the elevation of part of 
the strata ; so that there are frequently faults or abruptions of the 
diflerent rocks, which have given to tlie different parts of the strata 
different inclinations. 

" The true secondary strata of Sutherland," /. t\ of the east 
coast, " occupy an extent of six or seven miles, filling up a sort of 
basin between the transition hills, in the neighbourhood of Dun- 
robin, and those in the parish of Loth. The upper stratum is 
a sandstone of different degrees of hardness, and composed of sili- 
cious sand, cemented by silicious matter. Below this occurs an 
aluminous shale, containing pyritous matter, carbonaceous matter, 
the remains of marine animals, * and of land vegetables. Beneath 
this shale, or rather alternating with it, a stratum occurs, contain- 
ing in some of its parts calcareous matter, and passing into lime- 

• The reefs at Dunrobin contain the remains of the following hivalve shell fishes : — 
Gryphtra, difTering slightly from G. ohliqnata\ Modioh, new species, longitudinally 
striated ; Pecten^ new species, striated ; P/afnMt(»na duplicata ; Tcrchratnla victim ; 
a new species of gil>bose shell resembling Unio ; Venus undescribed.— .SVc Mur~ 
f'liwM ow Strata of Oolitic Scries, ^r. Trans. Gcol. Soc. 


Stone ; but in general consisting of a silicious sand agglutinated 
by calcareous cement The coal measures occupy the lowest part 
of this secondary district which has been yet exposed." 

^^ The hard sandstone is principally composed of pure silicious 
earth. It is not acted upon by acids, and is not liable to be de- 
composed by the action of air and water. The shale contains no 
calcareous matter near its junction with the coal. The limestones 
found in the secondary strata contain no magnesian earth, and are 
adulterated only with aluminous and silicious earths, and oxide of 
iron. They differ very much in purity, in different parts. The 
marble in the calcareous breccia at Rhives, and on the coast, 
leaves only from one-twelfth to one-twentieth of residuum during 
its solution in acids. The sand on the coast, near the quay at Dun- 
robin, contains from one-half to one-third of weight of calcareous 

Zoology. — The following birds, of the rarer kinds, have occasion- 
ally been seen in this parish, by the game-keeper. The goshawk, 
(Falco palumhariusj Linn.; UAutour^ Buffon.) The ash-colour- 
ed shrike, or greater butcher-bird, {Lanius excubitor^ Linn.; La 
Pie^Griiche grise^ Buffon.) Tlie ring-ouzel (Turdus torqttatus, 
Linn.; Le Merle d Plastron blanc^ Buffon.) The cross-bill or 
Sheld Apple {Loxia Curvirostra) Linn.; LeBeccroise, Buffon.) The 
snow-bunting or snow-flake (Emberiza nivalis^ Linn.; L' Ortolan 
de Neigcy Buffon.) The Siskin or Aberdevine {Fringilla spinusy 
Linn.; LeTarin, Buffon.) The night-jar, goat-sucker, dor-hawk, 
or fern-owl, (Caprimulgus Europceusy Linn.; L' Engouleventy Buf- 

At a very remote period, deer seem to have been numerous either 
in the hills of this parish, or in its neighbourhood ; for large, and 
evidently very old deposits of their horns have recently been dug up, 
near the site of the old chapel. They now seldom venture to ap- 
proach so near the coast. Galloway black-polled cattle. Highland 
black cattle, and the Cheviot breed of sheep, and some good work- 
horses, are reared with great care and success, in this parish. The 
kinds of fish found here are merely those which are common to 
the other parts of the east coast of Scotland, and which are men- 
tioned in the former Statistical Account. The most useful shell- 
fish, in the parish, is the mussel, generated on a bank in the Little 
Ferry inlet. This shell-fish is the bait chiefly used in the haddock 
and other white fisheries ; sometimes, however, the limpet, and a 
worm named by the fishermen hiff, and found in the sand, at ebb 


tide, are used as bait In the vicinity of the mussels, cockles abound. 
He^s of oyster-shells have occasionally been dug up in certain 
parts of this, and of the neighbouring parish, to the west; and their 
shells are also found on the sea-shore, about the Little Ferry inlet, 
— affording an indication of the existence of this shell-fish in abun- 
dance, in former times. 

IL — Civil History. 

Like other maritime parishes in the Highlands, Golspie appears 
to have, in ancient times, been invaded, and possessed, for a period, 
by foreign northern nations.* By far the most prominent and in- 
teresting part of its history relates to the eminent characters that 
have been connected with it. 

Family of Sutherland, — Her Grace the Duchess of Sutherland, 
who, with the other members of her family, often resides in this 
parish, at her seat — Dunrobin, is also Countess of Sutherland, in 
her own right The thanes of Sutherland first received the title 
of earls from Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, a. d. 1031. Her 
Grace Elizabeth, the present Countess, is the twenty-third repre- 
sentative of this ancient family, and a lineal descendant of Robert 
the Bruce, King of Scotland; the third William Earl of Sutherland 
having been married to the Princess Margaret, daughter of that 

The husband of her Grace is George Granville Leveson 
Gower, Duke of Sutherland, Knight of the Garter. The de- 
scent of his Grace is also very illustrious, as well as very ancient. 
Not to mention many other particulars, he is in the paternal 
line descended from Robert, the youngest son of Rollo, first Duke 
of Normandy, and, in the maternal line, from the Princess Mary, 
second daughter of the seventh Henry, King of England. 

The family consists of two sons and two daughters, — George 
Granville, Marquis of Stafford, Baron Gower of Stittenham, Lord 

* In all probability, the continental warlike nation of the Catti, so largely treated 
of by the Roman historians, invaded and took possession of the district of country ex- 
tending from the Pentland Frith to that of Dornoch ; and that, perhaps, soon after 
the disasters brought upon them by the Roman arms. The Celtic name of the dis- 
trict, situated between the Ord of Caithness, and the Frith of Dornoch, is Cati Ihaobh^ 
I. e. the side, or district of the Catli, and the inhabitants are in Celtic denominated 
Cattick, Caithness has in English retained its original name, for it means the pro- 
montory of the Catti ; but in Celtic^ it is called Gall thaohh, the district of strangers, 
from the people who at a later period settled there. Sutherland, the English name of 
this county, eridently owes its origin to its geographical position, in reference to Caith^ 
ness. In Celtic, the title of the Earls of Sutherland is Morfhcar citatt, pronounced 
Morer ehait, and that of the Countess, Bona Mhorfear chaiU pronounced Bona voter 
ehatt ; Bona being the feminine prefix. Both the Celtic titles are expressive of no- 
bility in any degree ; and thus they still continue applicable. 


Lieutenant of the county of Sutherland, and heir to the estates and 
titles of the family, married to Lady Harriet Howard, daughter of 
the Earl of Carlisle ; Lord Francis, heir to the property of the late 
Duke of Bridgewater, married to Miss Greville, niece of the Duke 
of Portland ; Lady Charlotte, married to the Earl of Surrey, son 
and heir of the Duke of Norfolk ; and Lady EUzabeth, married to 
Earl Grosvenor, son and heir of the Marquis of Westminster; 
all of whom have families, consisting each of sons and daughters. 

As a statesman the Duke of Sutherland is enlightened, libe- 
^ral, firm, and independent; possessing the well-merited charac- 
ter of inflexible integrity and of high honour. His Grace, then 
Earl Gower, was ambassador, from this country, at the court of 
France, at the memorable period of the French Revolution, which 
began in 1789.* 

Her Grace the Duchess of Sutherland has, by universal con- 
sent, been always regarded as endowed with great talent, accomplish- 
ments, and beauty ; and, in respect to character, is eminent and ex- 
emplary, in the highest degree, and a great ornament to her ex- 
alted rank and station ; the natural fruit and reward of which qua- 
lities are richly exhibited, in the good conduct and great prospe- 
rity and happiness of her family. The noble Marquis follows the 
paternal example, — favouring and promoting, as a statesman, all 
those measures which appear calculated to benefit the empire, and 
to render its institutions pure and permanent. The younger son. 
Lord Francis, has already, in connection with former administra- 
tions, served his country successively as Secretary of State for Ire- 
land, and minister at war, and, in a literary capacity, is author of some 

*> His Grace died at Dunrobin, on 19th July 1833, greatly lamented by all de- 
scriptions of persons in the county ; and his remains rejMse in the cathedral at Dor- 
noch. No nobleman's funeral could be. attended with a demonstration either more 
true, or more aj)propriate, of esteem and veneration, than that of his Grace ; and 
never, in this county, was tlicre a scene at once so decorous, so imposing, and eo im- 
pressive. Not only did the relatives of the noble deceased, and tlic gentlemen and 
clergymen connected with his domains, give their attendance on the solemn occa- 
sion, but also the general population of all the parishes, who, while the procession 
passed along, lined the road leading from Ounrobin to Dornoch. In testimony of 
tlieir great esteem and respect, the gentlemen and tenantry on his Grace's estates in 
thb country, are, at their joint expense, to erect a monument to his memory, to be 
situated on the summit of the hill *'*' Beinn a Bhragidh^** in this parish ; and m simi- 
lar manifestation of esteem and respect, takes place on the English estates. His 
Grace's eldest son succeeds to his titles and estates ; but the Duchess Countess of 
Sutherland not only enjoys her own esUtes, but also liferenU the whole of the ex- 
tensive and valuable estates purchased by the late Duke in this country ; a bequest 
as merited as it is munificent. For never, in any rank of life, was there one, who 
discharged the duties of the connubial relation m a more exemplary manner than 
did her Grace. 



works, chiefly connected with German literature, which have at- 
tracted considerable notice. 

The names and biography of the Earls of Sutherland are ho- 
nourably interwoven in the general history of the empire. To 
specify the many honourable actions and exertions of these 
noblemen, in defence and for the Uberties of their country, the ne- 
cessary brevity of this account renders impossible. But there 
is one remarkable and interesting circumstance that may not be 
omitted, — which is, that the line of succession down to the present 
representative is direct, and uninterrupted, having the title of Su- 
therland united to it. Twice was there an attempt unavaiUngly 
made to divert the succession from an heiress; first from the 
Lady Elizabeth, daughter of John, the twelfth earl ; and again, 
from the present representative, who, by the almost simultaneous 
and much lamented death of her noble parents, was in early in- 
fancy left an only child. From such critical circumstances did the 
Supreme Arbiter of the Destinies of all deliver the present repre- 
sentative of the house of Sutherland, and in her person the direct 
line of succession, — to become still farther exalted, and to be con- 
nected with the most noble, the most wealthy, and the most an- 
cient families in the empire ; 

" Mersus profiindo pulchrlor evenit." 

Family of Kilcalmkilh — In the churchyard of this parish there is 
a chapel, or inclosed place of sepulture, where repose many members 
of the very old family of Kilcalmkill, or, according to a more recent 
designation, of Carrol. This family derives its descent from Adam 
Gordon, Dean of Caithness, the first Earl of Huntly's second son, 
uncle of Adam Gordon, Lord of Aboyne, the second Earl of Hunt- 
ly's son, who married the Countess Elizabeth, daughter of John, 
the fourteenth Earl of Sutherland. The representative of a main 
branch of the Kilcalmhill family is Joseph Gordon, Esq. W. S. 
fklinburgh, who, it is understood, has a right to a baronetage by 
the death of the Rev. Sir Adam Gordon, Baronet, in whom a col- 
lateral branch of the male line has terminated. 

Family ofNovar. — Among the eminent persons connected with 
this parish, by birth, must be noticed the late Sir Hector Munro of 
Novar. Sir Hector was born at Clayside, in this parish, in 1 727, and, 
when about twenty years of age, entered the army. He went to 
the East Indies, a major in Morris's regiment At the head of a 
small force, he defeated a large army commanded by a native 
prince, at Buxar. He was afterwards promoted to the rank of 


major-general, aiid appointed commander-in-chief at Madras. He 
soon took the French settlement of Pondicherry, and, for this ser- 
vice, was invested with the order of the Bath. At Negapatam, 
also, he behaved with equal gallantry. Having soon afterwards 
returned to England, he was appointed Colonel of the 42d Regi- 
ment of Infantry, and was subsequently promoted to the rank of 
Lieutenant-General, on the North British Staff. Sir Hector's 
father, Hugh Munro, by the death of an elder brother, succeeded 
to the estate of Novar, in Ross-shire, and, on the father's death. 
Sir Hector himself. Sir Hector was twice in India, and in the in- 
terval spent at home he represented in Parliament the Inverness 
district of burghs, and on his finally quitting India was re-elected. 
Sir Hector died in 1802. He was a brave officer ; in private life 
a good friend ; and a remarkable instance of filial piety, towards 
a venerable and worthy mother, to whose prayers he was wont to 
ascribe his success in life.* 

Sir Hector Munro's brother, Alexander, who was for sometime 
Consul General at Madrid, and afterwards a Commissioner of Cus- 
toms, was also knighted. H. A. J. Munro, Esq. the present pro- 
prietor of Novar, an intelligent and accomplished gentleman, is 
the son of Sir Alexander. 

It must be added under this head, that Dr Hugh Macpherson, 
the present Professor of Greek in the University and King's Col- 
lege, Aberdeen, and who has taught that language there, for thirty- 
five years, with great success and approbation, is a native of this 
parish ; and is the son of the late Rev. Martin Macpherson, who 
was minister of the parish. 

Land-Timers. — The Duke and Duchess Countess of Sutherland 
are the sole owners of the land in this parish ; and, by the late purchase 
of the Reay country, they have become owners of nearly the whole 
county. Their property has also been further enlarged by the recent 
purchase of several estates in the county of Ross; so that the whole, 
in conjunction with the Staffordshire and other estates, the Bridge- 
water canal, and other possessions in England, constitutes a proper- 
ty which may with propriety be called immense, yielding a revenue 
more than princely. 

Manuscripts. — It is proper to observe, that there is a manuscript 
at Dunrobin Castle, entitled « the Genealogy of the Earls and 
family of Sutheriand." But though this be the title, the work is 

• Sir II. Munro*s conduct in India did not wholly escape censure ; but, whatever 
caww there may have been for it, it is evident that his general conduct and services 
must have made ample amends. 


extensive, and contains a great many curious and interesting his* 
torical notices, relative to the counties of Sutherland and Caith* 
ness, the hi^ands and islands, and the country at laige. The. 
author was Sir Robert Gordon, a younger son of the family of 
Sutherland. The work embraces the space of time between the 
years 1031 and 1630, and tfiere is appended to it a continuation, 
by Gilbert Gordon of Sallach, to the year 1661. It was printed 
in Edinburgh in 1813 ; and of the MS. there is another manuscript 
eofy in the Advocates' Library, in Edinburgh. 

AHtiqMiHe$,^^A portion of the wall of the old church, or chapel, 
of this parish still remains, and forms part of the fence whidi en* 
doses the burying-ground formerly used. This cemetery contains 
the remains of many of the Earls of Sutherland, as signified by a 
plain stone placed in the old church wall, bearing this epitaph, 
*^ In hoc diruto cameterio Sutherlandia pbtrimarum eomitum dneres 
canquiesetmL*' Tlie church was transferred from Culmalie to Grol- 
spie, A. D. 1619. 

In the former Statistied Account of the parish, there is notice 
taken of the battle fought in 1746, on the north side of the Little 
Ferry ^ between a party of those who sided with the invading prince 
and the miUtia of this country; in which battle the Earl of Cro- 
marty and other ^ntlemen were made prisoners. Of the sangui- 
nary nature of this battle there remain clear proofs. Several 
skeletons of those who fell, and who were buried on the scene of 
action, have of late been occasionally discovered. Along with these, 
there have been found a number of small copper coins, and one of 
silver, — dl of Mary and James, — together with some copper 
brooches and some glass beads. Of these artides, some are now 
at Dunrobin Castle, and others in the possession of Dr Ross of 
Canmsmore. Among the latter, there is a copper ring encircled 
with this inscription, rudely executed ; ^' Jesus Nazarams Hex 
JuddBorunL." The remdns of swords and pistols have also been 

Near the ruins of the old chapel, there were lately dug up the 
handle of a balance, with some of the weights, both of brass, and 
of neat and curious workmanship, and in very good preservation. 
They are supposed to have belonged to the old chapel. These, 
together with some thick rings of brass, wood, and other materials^ 
in diameter from hdf an inch to one and a^half, found in the same 
vicinity, are now at Dunrobin Castle ; and here also are two brass 
rings, three inches in diameter, and a third of an inch thick, found 



at the place of Uppat, five feet under ground. Near the site of 
the old chapel, too, there was lately dug up a large undressed stone, 
with a rude device, as of an ancient galley, — a thick crescent The 
date and the object of it are alike unknown. It now stands a little 
to the east of the castle. 

The ruins of two Pictish towers, as they are often called, are 
described in the former Statistical Account ; — the one, situated 
at a short distance to the east of Dunrobin Castle, and the other 
to the west, now embosomed in a plantation of fir trees. There 
is another ruin of the same kind near the place of Backies, which 
has not been mentioned, and which, as well as that situated at the 
east, has been greatly demolished. The ruin in the wood is less dila- 
pidated, and still distinctly bears the characteristics of similar ruins 
in the coast-side Highlands. The general dimensions, — the cen- 
tral circular compartment, — the gallery between this compartment 
and the exterior wall, — are quite visible. The absence of mortar 
in the construction is common to these three ruins, as well as to 
all others of the kind. The two nearest were in sight of each 
other; the one at Backies looked into the glen; and they all com- 
manded an extensive prospect of the sea and the land. It is most 
probable, that these, and other similar structures, were built and 
used by the Danes. The remains of a Druidical temple, or cir- 
cle, are to be seen a little above the road which leads from the 
Mound to Morvich, about half way between these places. 

Dunrobin Castle.- — About the middle of the parish, and situ- 
ated on the margin of a bank, and considerably elevated above 
the sea, stands Dunrobin Castle, which was first built by Robert 
Earl of Sutherland, a. d. 1275. . Its environs are a good deal 
wooded, and the surrounding scenery, which is varied and hilly, is 
very interesting and picturesque. The garden which, as viewed 
from the bank or the castle, spreads itself like a map at the foot 
of the bank, is in excellent keeping with the antique character of 
the mansion and the place. 

Parochial Register. — The earliest entry in the parochial regis- 
ter here is 29th December 1739. The register is at present re- 
gularly and carefully kept. 

Modem Buildings. — Besides the farm-houses and offices, there 
are in the village an inn, a flour and barley-mill, a meal-mill, a 
bank-office, and the manse, all of them good, and built not many 
years ago. 


IIL — Population. 
Since the former Statistical Account in 1793, there has been a 
decrease of population. This has arisen from a powerful cause, which 
has been, for the last forty years, in full operation in all the High- 
lands of Scotland,- — the occupation of the land, in large farms, by 
tenants of skill and capital; — a measure urged on by the changes 
and improvements in the general state of agriculture and commerce, 
at home and abroad. Since the census in 1821, there is an in- 
crease in the jpopulation of upwards of a hundred; which has been 
occasioned by the increased comforts of the working-classes, aris- 
ing from employment on the large farms, and in the various works, 
such as buildings and roads, carried on, in the county. 

By the census of 1831, the whole population of the parish was - 1 149 

The population of the village of Golspie is at present - • 450 

The population residing in the country, - - ^ . . 699 

The yearly average number of births for the last seven years, • 90 

of deaths for do. - . • 16 

of marriages for do. ... 9 

The average number of persons under 15 years of age, - - d95 

betwixt 15 and 30, - . 302 

30 and 50, . . 233 

50 and 70, - . 165 

upwards of 70, - - • 54 

The number of unmarried men, bachelors, and widowers, upwards of 50 

years of age, - - .. . . • 11 

The number of unmarried women upwards of 45 years of age, ^ 52 

Average number of children in each fiunily, ... 4 

Number of persons deaf and dumb, .... 2 

&tuous persons, ..... 1 

blind, _.._... 1 

The number of &milies in the parish is, - ... 248 

of &milies chiefly employed in agriculture, - 113 

chiefly employed in trade, manufactures, or handicrafl, 49 

Language^ Habits^ and Character of the People. — Forty years 
ago, the Gaelic was the language generally spoken in the parish. 
But, from better education, and the residence of persons from the 
south country, that language is now fast on the decline; and among 
the young there is now hardly an individual who does not under- 
stand and speak English. In cleanliness, both personal and cLo- 
mestic, there has of late been a great improvement; and the same 
may, in its full extent, be said of their dress. The ordinary 
food of the peasantry and tradesmen consists of oat and barley- 
meal, variously prepared, — of potatoes, fish, and milk, but rarely 
flesh. Tradesmen and others occasionally use a little wheaten 
bread, and a little butter, cheese, and tea. The people of this 
parish live ip comfort and contentment — However far short they 
may come of the full Christian standard, they may generally, and 
in the ordinary acceptation of the term, be, without hesitation. 


said to be a moral and a religious people. It must, however, be ad- 
mitted, that, in common with a large proportion of their country- 
men, the religion of many of the native population of the lower 
class is not without serious and inveterate errors. Christian con- 
ver^on, in their view, essentially consists, not in the forsaking of 
wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts, and in returning from these 
to the Lord, but in another sort of change not distinctly connect- 
ed with a moral life. A set of illiterate, fanatical, and disorderly, 
self-appointed teachers of religion have, by their wild and mjrsti- 
cai rhapsodies, acquired a baneful ascendant over the ignorant 
minds of the lower orders of the people not only in this country, 
but in other parts of the Highlands. In the mouths of these 
teachers, prayer is irreverently perverted into mere discussion, vir- 
tually addressed, not to God, but to the hearers, and frequently 
degenerates into bitter personalities and invecUves. By these de- 
luding, and often deluded persons, the metaphorical parts of the 
Holy Scriptures are received and taught in the literal sense, and 
the plainest parts are very often allegorized. Not unfrequently the 
Scriptures are considered as a mere secondary thing, of little avail ; 
and that pastor who studies them closely and critically, and ex- 
pounds them in their true sense, is regarded as if he were dealing 
with occult and unhallowed sciences. 

IV. — Industry. 

Agriculture and Rural Economy. — The number of acres, impe- 
rial measure, in the parish which are either cultivated or occasion- 
ally in tillage is about 2040. Of unimproved land there is very 
little. There are about 800 acres under wood. Every attention 
seems to be paid to the plantations. 

The trees and plants in this parish are of those kinds which 
are common to other parts of the Highlands. Since the former 
Statistical Account was written, a considerable space of land has 
been planted with forest trees, by which the appearance of the pa- 
rish is greatly improved. 

Rent of Land. — The average rent of arable land per imperial 
acre in this parish is L. 1, 2s. The average rate of grazing is 
L. 1, 10s. per ox or cow grazed, and 2s. per ewe or fuU*grown sheep, 
pastured for the year. 

Rate of Wages. — The rate of wages is as follows : A ploughman, 
for the year, receives L. 10 in money, one stone of meal per week, 
keep for a cow, (or a cow between two,) six bolls of potatoes, with 
house and fuel. A male day labourer gets Is.' 6d. in the long day, 


and Is. dd. in the short; a female 6d. a-day generally; in har- 
vest, Is. House-carpenters 2s., and masons 2s. 6d. a-day. The 
prices of articles of manufacture, and the rate of work, are ; for 
an iron plough, L.4; for a wooden one from L.2, lOs. to L.d. 
A cart, with hay frame, L. 14; a set of cart and plough harness, 
L. 7, lOs. ; pair of harrows, L. 2, 10s. ; rood of stone and lime- 
work, L. 2, 12s. ; drystone-dike, 4 feet high, with coping, 6d. per 
yard ; if 6 feet high, 9d. ; blacksmiths work 4d. to 7d. per lb. 

itw*SltodL— 'The price of a Dunrobin ox, from two to three 
years old, is generally L. 9; but, during the war, the price was L.14, 
and sometimes h^ier. Other Highland cattle are considerably 
lower in price. A woric-horse from L. 25 to L. 40. The price of beef 
and mutton is 4d. per lb. ; butter, lOd. per lb. ; a common house fowl, 
^ > ^SS^ ^ P^** dozen ; oatmeal generally L. 1, but this year 17s.* 
per boll of eight stone ; potatoes from 8s. to 12s. per boll of twelve 
bushels imperial; salmon Is. to Is. 6d. per lb. ; grilse 6d. per lb. ; 
a cod 6d.; haddocks from lOd. to Is. per dozen. 

The Dunrobin breed of cattle, originally from Argyleshire, are 
deservedly accounted excellent, and there is great attention paid 
to the rearing of them. For dairy use, there are some Ayrshire 
cows. On some farms, the breed of Highland black-cattle is 
chiefly reared; and on the farm of Kirk ton, an excellent breed of 
black polled Galloway cattle. At the Highland Society's cattle 
show, held at Inverness in 1831, where stock of all kinds were 
shown, from all the northern counties, including the counties of 
Aberdeen and Perth, — a larger amount of prizes was awarded to 
this parish than to any other. To the Marquis of Stafford was 
awarded the prize for the best two oxen of the Highland breed ; 
another for the best lot of stirks of the same breed ; and the So- 
ciety's medal for two Highland oxen shown as extra stock. Mr 
Craig of Kirkton obtained a prize for the best cow, another for the 
best heifer, and another for the best ox, all of the Gralloway breed, 
— together with the commendation of the judges for a bay colt and 
a chesnut filly, shown as extra stock. This gentleman afterwards 
sold his prize ox for L. 30, to the advantage of the buyer. The 
Galloway breed of cattle are here found to be very hardy, and to 
arrive at a greater weight, upon the same feeding, than the High- 
land breed do. The milk, both of the Galloway and Highland 
cows, is not great in quantity, but is in quality very rich. On the 
large farms, some good work and saddle horses are bred ; and by 

• In ia04. 14s. per boll. 


the cottars, some small ponies. The kind of sheep reared is the 
Cheviot, to the purity and rearing of which much attention is paid ; 
and they accordingly are very superior, and obtain high prices., 

Husbandry, — Farming is carried on in this parish on the most 
approved system. The rotations of cropping are the four, five, 
and six years shifts. Trenching and draining have been done to 
a great extent on every farm in the parish, at an expense of from 
L. 8 to L. 50 per acre. * The duration of leases is nineteen 
years; in one instance, thirty. The farm-buildings and many of 
the fences (which are dry-stone dikes) are substantial. 

Improvements. — It may be with truth affirmed, that a simple 
account of the improvements in this parish must have the appear- 
ance of exaggeration, and that he only can appreciate them who 
had seen the state of the parish forty or even thirty years ago, and 
compares that state with the present Every farm, every building, 
every piece of road, presents an instance of the greatest improve- 
ment. The farms of Culmalie and Morvich are possessed by Mr 
Sellar, who, by trenching, draining, and liming, with much labour 
and expense, has converted them into specimens of great agricul- 
tural excellence. The farm of Kirkton, occupied by Mr Craig, 
affords a most creditable example of industry and skill. That of 
Drummuie, held by Mr Macpherson, and that of Golspie Tower, 
held by Mr Duncan, have been greatly improved, and at a great 
expense. The farm of Rhives had been rendered a remarkably 
fine one by its former successive occupants, Mr Young and Mr 
Suther ; and an addition has been made to its arable land, by the 
present possessor, Mr Gunn. The mains of Dunrobin, being old 
and good land, have always been productive ; but they, too, have 
been improved under the new system ; and the same may be said 
of the place of Uppat, which completes the number of large farms 
in the parish. These notices are not irrelevant here ; for it must 
be added, that these farmers have . not only the good fortune to 
be placed under most liberal landlords ; but that they deserve the 
liberality they receive. They have acquired a title to the gra- 
titude of the community at large " by making corn and grass to 
grow, where neither grass nor com ever grew before." 

Quarries. — There are two very good red sandstone quarries 
wrought here ; there is also one of white sandstone. Some indi- 

* Much use continues to be made of drift sea-weed as a manure ; kelp is used at 
Dunrobin, and bone-dust has recently been introduced by Mr Craig, Kirkton^ and 
has been since adopted to some extei^t and with success by others. From the very 
small quantity of this manure requisite, there is a great saving of carriage. 







cations have appeared of coal veins ; but it has not been thought 
expedient to open them. 

Produce. — The average gross amount of raw produce raised in 
the parish, as nearly as that can be ascertained, is as follows : — 

Produce of grain of all kinds, cultivated for food for men and the domestic animals, 


Potatoes, turnips, cabbages, beet, and other plants, cultivated in 
the field for food, .... 

Hay cultivated, .... 

Land in pasture, rating it at L. 1, lOs. per cow or full-grown ox, 
grazed, or that may be grazed, for the season ; at 2s. p^ ewe or 
full-grown sheep pastiured, or that may be pastured, for the year. 

Fisheries yearly, haddocks, &c L. 250, herrings, L. 200, 

Muscles yearly, ..... 

Total yjssKtXy value, L. 10,030 

Fishings. — The only salmon fishery, in the parish, is on the Fleet 
below the Mound. It commences in June, and is carried on by 
stake nets. The quantity of fish caught there is not large. There 
is no herring fishery station in the parish. It is at Helmsdale, 
Wick, and Portmahomach, that the fishermen of this parish take 
and sell their herrings. The above calculation of the fisheries 
is probably under their real value. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 

Markets^ Villages^ Sfc. — In this parish there is, strictly speak- 
ing, no town, and the nearest market -town is Tain, distant about 
twenty miles ; a ferry intervening. There is, however, a village, 
bearing the name of the parish. Originally, there were only a 
few fishermen's huts of the meanest description on the site of the 
village; but within the last twenty years it has, with the aid of the 
noble proprietors, become a neat village of considerable extent. 
It contains several retail-shops of various descriptions. There are 
also mechanics of various kinds, and upwards of twenty profes- 
sional fishermen, together with many labourers of both sexes, who 
earn their livelihood by working on the neighbouring farms. 

Means of Communication, — A trading smack plies regularly once 
a-month between the Little Ferry^ in this parish, and the^ port of 
Leith, touching also at Helmsdale and Aberdeen. * There is here, 
too, a regular post-office ; and a daily mail-coach passes through 
the village on its way to and from Thurso. From this post-office, 
there runs twice a-week a Diligence gig, conveying a mail, and 
fitted up to carry two passengers, to Lairg in the interior, distant 
eight miles ; from which place, and on the same day, two other 

* There is a steamer to commence plying, next spring, between the Moray Frith 
and London ; and this steamer is to touch at the LMtk Ferry, 


liiiiiiiar conveyances, and for similar purposes, branch ofl^-*^tbe one 
to Tongue, the other to Assynt^ It is only about three years since 
these latter conveyances began to run ; and fifteen, since the mail- 
coach commenced. Both the latter and the former owe their es-* 
tablishment, in a great measure, to the liberal and powerful suj^rt 
of the noble proprietors of this parish, — rendered effective by the 
ability and activity of their commissioner, James Loch, Esq.M. P. 
The length of mail-coach road, in this parish, is eight miles. Over 
Golspie bum there is a well-built substantial one-arched bridge. * 
Earthen Mound. — Connecting this parish with the adjacent one 
of Dornoch, at the head of the Little Ferry inlet, and across the 
Fleet, there is a mound 995 yards in length, 60 yards in breadth 
at the base, and 20 feet at the top, and about 18 feet perpendicular 
in height ; it terminates at the north end in a bridge 34 yards in 
length, with four arches, each 12 feet span, fitted with valve gates. 
The expense of constructing this mound was L. 9600, of which 
sum the Duke of .Sutherland defrayed L. 1600, and the public and 
the county the remainder, each a moiety. Along the mound the 
mail-coach now passes; and thus a passage, formerly uncertain 
and often dangerous, has been rendered safe, certain, and agreeable. 
Besides the public benefit effected by this work, some good land 
is preserved from the overflowing of the sea ; and about 400 acres 
of beach, which may in time become arable, are gradually assum- 
ing a coating partly of herbage, and partly of alder trees. The 
construction of the mound having been by many skilful engineers 
deemed hazardous, and by some impracticable, there was much 
difficulty in getting persons to undertsdce it, when Earl Grower, now 
Marquis of Stafford, William Young, Esq. of Maryhill near Elgin, 
and Patrick Sellar, Esq. of Westfield, came forward, and became 
responsible for the completion of the work. To Mr Young, who 
was commissioner on the estate of the noble proprietors of this 
county, it is but doing justice to observe, that the mound, which 
was finished in 1816, and is accounted one of the most complete 
structures of the kind in Britain, in a great measure owes its exist- 

* On the middle of one of the parapets of this bridge stands a small obelisk, with 
this Celtic inscription : *< Morfbear cbatt do cheann na droichle big gaim claim chat- 
tich nam buadh." 

At « Ceann na droichte W^,** the end of the Little Bridge, the cattich were wont to 
muster. Their " gathering"* also, or rallying " Piabarachiy** which is accounted one 
of the best, bears the name of " Ceann na droichU big.** But tliis Pisbarachd has like- 
wise long borne the name of " Ribingorm Mhorfkear Ctiattj'* i. e. The Earl of Suther. 
land's Blue or Green Ribband. 


enoe ; and it will remain a lasting monument of his ability and 

LittJe Ferry. — The Little Ferry inlet, or the estuary, as it may 
be regarded, of the Fleet, forms a harbour at the distanc!^ of about 
a mile from the bar formed at its mouth. The depth of the water 
over this bar, during spring tides, is, at fiill tide, about 16 feet, and 
at ebb tide 4^ feet ; and, during neap tides, is, at fiill tide, about 
16, and, at ebb tide, 6 feet. When the Fleet is flooded, the depth 
is, in a small degree, increased. The harbour is about 259 yards 
broad, has about 18 feet water at ebb tide, and affords perfect safe- 
ty, in any weather. Above this narrow part, the sea, at full tide, 
expands over a space of about 1500 imperial acres. The harbour 
of the Little Ferry is frequented by trading vessels, which import 
lime, coal, bone^ust, and merchant goods, for this parish and dis- 
trict, and export grain, wool, whisky, &c At Dunrobin there is 
a pier for the use of small vessels. 

EecUnastiad State. — The parish church is situated about the 
middle of the parish, and so near the sea, that the glebe only in-r 
terrenes. The situation is convenient for the parishioners ; the 
village, which contains from a third to a half of the population, 
being in its immediate vicinity, and most of the remaining part, 
with the exception of a few families, who are not far from the neigh- 
bouring parish churches, being within less than three miles of it; and 
the extremities of the parish, which are more thinly inhabited, being 
in any direction scarcely more than six miles distant from the church. 
The church was built in 1738. The southern aisle was added in 
1 751, and at present the building is in good repair. It is fitted to ao-» 
conunodate 565 persons. — The manse was built in 1827. — A large 
proportion of the glebe is sand and gravel. Of good glebe land 
there is scarcely the legal measure of four and a-half acres ; and 
it has become greatly deteriorated by being cut up by a neighbour- 
ing stream. Calculating according to the average rent of land in 
this parish, which is L. 1, 2s., its value annually is evidently smalL 
There b no grass gl^be. — The annual stipend consists of 131 bolls 
of victual, old county measure, and L. 75 in money. There is no 
separate allowance for sacramental expenses. The teinds are 
supposed to be exhausted. There is no public place of worship 
of any kind in the parish, but the parish church. There is no 

^The average number of communicants in this parish, which is 70, 
must, when compared with the population, appocnr strikingly small ; 


but this is only what is general in Highland parishes. The chief 
cause of it is, that the views generally entertained by the lower classes 
of the nature of the Lord's supper are inveterately superstitious. 
Very many of those, who are not only decent in their lives, but even 
religious, are laid gray-headed in their graves without having once 
engaged in the Christian duty of the Lord's supper. Where the 
population of many parishes, consisting of several thousands, are 
assembled in one parish, it is evident, indeed, that, with other evils, 
there cannot be the due proportion of conmiunicants. On some 
occasions, too, the strange anomaly exists in these parts of many 
of the illiterate laity being permitted to address those large assem- 
blages of people, who but too generally regard their doctrines as the 
dictates of inspiration. 

Education* — The schools in the parish are the parochial one 
and a female school. During the winter months, however, in the 
more distant parts, parents occasionally unite in employing a youth 
to teach very young children. The branches taught in the pa- 
rochial school are Latin, Greek, the elements of geometry, book- 
keeping, arithmetic, writing, English reading, and the catechisms 
of the Established church. The schoolmaster's annual salary is 
L. 34, 4s. 4d., and the annual average amount of school fees is 
about L. 26. The salary of the teaclier of the female school is 
L. 8, and is granted by the Society for Propagating Christian 
Knowledge in the Highlands. The school is patronized by her 
Grace the Duchess of Sutherland, who gives the teacher a house 
and garden, with other donations, equivalent to L. 6. It is found 
to be very useful. The branches taught in it are sewing and 
English reading. From its immediate vicinity to the parochial 
school, other branches are not here required. There are few chil- 
dren in the parish who cannot read ; and those few are the chil- 
dren of the fishermen, some of whom, from the erroneous idea 
that to persons of their calling education would be no advantage, 
are indifferent about the instruction of their children. Those 
children, who are taught to read, are also taught to write ; and most 
of the youth can, in some degree, both write and read. Of the 
elderly people, indeed, there are a number, probably 80, who 
can do neither. The desire on the part of parents to educate their 
children is greatly increasing. The situation of the parish school, 
which is in the immediate neighbourhood of the village, is well 
calculated to induce the general attendance of the children. The 


facilities of education have considerably improved the moral and 
social condition of the people. 

Poi3T. — In regard to the poor of the parish, it may be observed, 
that though they all receive some aid from church collections, and 
from other fiinds, there are none of them wholly supported by these. 
The average number on the poors-roll is somewhat more than 
sixty. The average sum which each of them annually receives is 
8s., and occasionally some meal. 'Jlie average annual collections in 
church are about L. 1 9. There is the interest of money lent in behalf 
of the poor, amounting to about L. 7. And her Grace the Duchess 
of Sutherland, besides many charitable pensions, and many liberal 
donations in money, meal, clothing, and house accommodation, 
annually contributes L. 6 to the parochial fund for the poor. Out 
of this general fund there is a small annual allowance to the ses- 
sion-clerk, precentor, kirk-officer, and treasurer. The average 
amount of church collections for other charitable and religious 
purposes may be L. 15 a-year. 

There is in the parish a house for the accommodation of seve- 
ral poor widows, which was sometime since built at the joint ex- 
pense of the present Ladies Surrey and Grosvenor. 

Literature, — It may be observed, that the gentlemen of this 
and the neighbouring parishes have formed themselves into a read- 
ing club. They purchase new books of merit, which, after being 
circulated among the members, are sold to supply the means of 
purchasing others. 

Fairs, Inns, Fuel, — There is an annual fair held near the vil- 
lage of Golspie, in October, chiefly for the sale of country cattle ; 
but merchants and pedlars also resort to it, with goods suited to 
the wants of the country people. There is another fair of a simi- 
lar nature, but of little importance, in May. In the vicinity of 
the village, there is an inn, lately built, large, commodious, well- 
furnished, and well-kept. It is allowed to be the best country 
inn in the Highlands, and is beautifully and picturesquely situated. 
In the village itself, there are several smaller inns, or alehouses, 
for the use and accommodation of the lower orders ; and hitherto 
these houses do not seem to have had any particularly bad efiects 
on the morals of the people. The fuel used in the parish is coal 
and peat. The coal is imported from Newcastle, and generally 
costs 2s. per barrel. The peats are cut and seasoned in the 
mosses, at the distance of some miles from the coast ; and were 
the expense of cutting, seasoning, and carriage, duly calculated, it 


would probably be found that the price comes little, if at all, short 
of that of imported coal. 

Miscellaneous Observations. 
Since the time of the last Statistical Account, the greatest 
changes, as already noticed, have taken place in the state of the 
parish. At that period, the injurious system of sub-letting prevail- 
ed ; and both the knowledge and the practice of farming were ex- 
ceedingly defective. The place of Dunrobin excepted, there was 
neither draining, trenching, nor fallow, and very little green crop» 
besides potatoes and a little pease. There were few fences, and 
these few bad. The plough, which was rudely constructed, had 
no part of it iron but the coulter, the sock, and the hook, at tibe 
end of the beam. Four country garrans^ or Highland ponies, were 
yoked to the plough abreast : and the driver walked in front of them 
backwards. There were few wheeled vehicles thjit deserved the name. 
Com, fuel, &C. were carried in a kind of frame called crubaffSj fast- 
ened on horseback, to a wooden saddle, that rested on a straw maU 
The public road was the only one, and that itself indifferent The 
dwellings of the subtenants were wooden frames thatched with turf, 
and of these, one end accommodated cattle, horses, and sometimes 
pigs. One end also of the turf covering of these huts, saturated as 
it was with soot, was annually stript off and converted into manure. 
With such dwellings the dress of their tenants corresponded. With 
the exception of tlie mtUchj or cap, and handkerchief of the wo- 
men, and perhaps the men's neckcloths, their clothes consisted of 
coarse tartans, kelt, and blanket stuffs. The state of things is now 
very different Farming is brought to the highest degree of ex- 
cellence, that industry, skill, and expense can bring it to. Nor is it 
too much to say, that the system of fanning, at present followed in 
this .parish, does not fall short of the best modes of farming, in any 
part of the kingdom. The farmers have very good houses, with 
two public rooms ; and they have their wheeled carriages for per- 
sonal and family use. Sub-letting is abolished. The small te- 
nants, or cottars, live in decent cottages built with stone and 
lime, or clay, with glass windows ; and their fare is correspond- 
ingly better. Tradesmen and ploughmen, on Sundays, wear 
good long coats of English manufacture, white shirts, hats, and 
silk handkerchiefs ; and the females of the same class wear good 
cotton gowns, shawls or scarfs, and many of them straw bonnets. 
There are, of all descriptions of road, in the parish, about forty 
miles, — of which about twelve were made by the Parliamentary 


Commissioners and the county; about eighteen, partly at the 
expense of the proprietors, and partly by an assessment on the te- 
nantry ; and ten miles at the sole expense of the proprietors* In 
no county of Scotland was there ever, in so short a time, the same 
length of road made, as there has been, within the last twenty 
years, in the county of Sutherland. In former times, the inter- 
nal communication was by mere paths or tracks, and many parts 
of it were all but inaccessible. Now, several hundred miles of 
good road intersect the county in every direction ; and there is free 
and easy access to every part of it. These roads were made chiefly at 
the expense of the noble proprietors of this parish, and under the 
able management of James Loch, Esq. M. P. their commissioner. 
In the months of July and August of last year, ldd2, that aw- 
ful scourge, the Asiatic cholera, by which so many millions of the 
human race have been destroyed since 1817, visited this parish 
also. Every possible precaution was adopted, and every known 
preventive was used^ to ward it ofL A Board of Health was 
established, large subscriptions and assessments of money were 
made, aU manner of cleanliness was enforced, the poor were fed 
and clothed well, vagrants were kept away ; and the result was, 
that, although the fishermen of the village of Golspie brought 
the infection from the fishing station of Helmsdale, and although 
the disease made its appearance in the village, in its most malig- 
nant form, quickly carrying off three individuals, the infection was, 
by the mercy of Divine providence, arrested and destroyed, while 
a very great proportion of the population of other villages, in the 
adjacent county, and separated only by a few miles of sea, perished 
miserably. Too much praise cannot be bestowed on the pro* 
prietors and farmers of this county, for the heavy expense which 
they incurred, and the great exertions which they made, on the peri- 
lous occasion. It most fortunately happened, that the Duke and 
Duchess of Sutherland, with Lord and Lady Staffed and their 
family, were at the time at Dunrobin, and it were great injustice 
not to record here the most humane, liberal, and unwearied atten- 
tion, which they paid to the safety of the population, and especially 
to the health and comfort of the poor. 

March 1833. BevUed September 1834. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 

Name. — Roaird is the name of this parish in the Gaelic lan- 
guage. How it came to be written and pronounced Rogart can 
only be accounted for by the diflSculty in pronouncing the name 
to those who did not speak that language. It is evident that Ro- 
gart is a modification of Roaird. Various etymologies have been 
assigned to this word. The most probable is, that it is an abbre- 
viation of two Gaelic words, rhidhe^ an inclined plain, and ardj 
high. In the district of the parish called Roaird, which gives the 
name to the whole parish, there is Roaird-bheff and Roaird'-mhor ; 
both inclined plains of no great extent, but one, Roaird-iheg of less 
extent than the other, as the name implies. Rhidhe and JRhidhea' 
chaUf in the pluralj are conunon in Sutherland, and all of them are 
used as names of inclined plains. To give an idea of the liberty 
used with Gaelic names^ when attempted in another language, it 
may be mentioned, that Rhidheachan is found in this county, and 
in the neighbouring county, Ross-shire, to have passed into Rhives. 
In like manner, Roaird has been changed into Rogart. 

Extent^ Boundaries. — This parish is of nearly equal length and 
breadth, and forms a square of ten miles. It is bounded on the 
east by parts of the parishes of Dornoch and Golspie ; on the 
south by parts of the parishes of Dornoch and Criech ; on the 
west by the parish of Lairg ; and on the north by parts of the 
parishes of Clyne and Farr. It comprehends, on the south side, 
the whole of Strathfleet ; on the north side, the upper division of 
Strathbrora, and an interjacent space, consisting of low hills, flat 
moors, meadows, small lakes, and the courses of many bums issu- 
ing from them to form the river Fleet, and to swell the Brora, 
which has its source in a distant mountain. 

Topographical Appearances. — Strathfleet, in the language of the 


inhabitants, is called Strathfloid; and the small river passing 
through it is called in that language Flodag the diminutive of Flodj 
a word signifying inundation, to which this stream is subject. This 
strath is ten miles in length, and of irregular width. In some parts it 
is three-fourths of a mile wide; in other parts it is contracted to with- 
in a few yards of the stream passing through it Both sides of it rise 
to an elevation of from 500 to 700 feet above the course of the 
Fleet, — ^in some parts abruptly, but generally in sloping banks, 
which are occasionally cultivated and produce crops. 

The part of Strathbrora which is in this parish bears a resem- 
blance to Strathfleet, — the difference being such as may be ac- 
counted for by the action of a larger body of water, which has in 
some places cut deeper into the rock, forming chasms. In other 
parts, the water meets with less resistance, the valley is widened, 
and lengthened haughs are formed. Being nearer the mountain- 
ous region, the aspect of this strath is of a more rugged character 
than that of Strathfleet 

The hills between these straths are nearly of equal height, and 
rise to an elevation of from 800 to 900 feet above the level of the 
sea. The meadows, which are found around some of the lakes 
and in those flat parts which are subject to irrigation from burns 
passing through, are not of great extent, and form but a small 
proportion to the extent of the moors. 

Climate, — The climate of the county of Sutherland, from its 
latitude and exposure to the winds of the German and Northern 
Ocean, is sharp and cold. The greater part of Rogart, owing to 
its elevation, and to its having but little shelter from the east wind, 
and being swept by every blast coming from the high mountains of 
Assynt and Strathnaver, is much exposed to the severity of a cold 
atmosphere. Yet snow does not lie long here, and frost is not very 
intense. Winter, however, leaves us but reluctantly, continuing 
during the greater part of spring ; and it often arrives in the last 
month of harvest At the times alluded to, we have our most dis- 
agreeable weather, — cold easterly winds, bringing sleet or rain. 
The most frequent winds, however, are the north and east, but 
the south-west blows with greatest violence. 

Summer here has a great proportion of dry weather ; as the rains 
which fall among the high mountains in this season do not extend 
to this place. A dry scorching summer is more frequently a 
subject of complaint with us than one too rainy. Nor can it be 


said that we have more rain in winter than there is in other parts 
of this island. 

Notwithstanding the coldness of our climate, however, it is re- 
mariuibly healthy. With the exception of catarrhs in the months 
of March and October, diseases but rarely visit the inhabitants. 

Hydrography, — The lakes in this parish are very numeroins, but 
not remarkable for extent Of Loch Craggie, in its western ex- 
tremity, anglers i^ak with rapture for the size and quality of its 
trout, and for the excellent sport it affords. In the north-eastern 
extremity of the parish, there are two lakes in which fine trout are 
found. Their name implies that they were once on this account 
held in estimation ; b6th being called Loch^beannadied^ Lake of 

The only rivers are those already mentioned, the Fleet and th^ 
Brora. Even the larger* of these is insignificant in summer and 
harvest ; but both when in flood, discharge a great body of water, 
and often cover almost the whole of the plains in their courses, so as 
to present the appearance of a succession of lakes. The Fleet 
has its origin in a rising ground, forming the boundary between the 
parishes of Rogart and Laiig. After traversing ten miles, from 
west to east, in many windings, fringed with birch and alder bushes, 
it enters an extensive plain, once covered by every tide from the 
Moray Frith, but now encroached upon only by this stream : the 
waters of the sea being completely shut out by the earthen mound, 
at the head of the lAtile Ferry. In this place, where it is not con- 
fined by the skill and enterprise of the agriculturist, it appears 
almost completely lost among rapidly growing alders, untfl it 
collects itself into a pool, or forms a considerable lake, before being 
discharged into the sea by the sluices of the mound. The Brora is 
about twice the size of the Fleet, has its origin in the high moun- 
tain Beinclibric, and passes from west to east, traversing ten miles 
of this parish in its course. It then enters the parish of Clyne, 
where it unites with another river called the Blackwater, and pas- 
sing through that parish, it joins the Moray Frith at a village to 
which it has given its name, and affords a harbour for light shipping. 

Geology and Mineralogy. — Rogart lies chiefly on gneiss rock, in 
which the only veins seen are of quartz. It is of a large-grained 
kind, with a great proportion of mica. It is used in building the 
houses and cottages of the inhabitants, and is found an excellent 
material for the purpose, being easily wrought 


Over the whole of the parish, rolled blocks of granite are seen in 
great numbers on the surface ; in some parts, if viewed from a dis- 
tance, the surface appears covered with them. They are found no 
less numerous under ground in hollows, where there has been an 
accumulation of soil to cover them. 

Of the whole surface of Rogart, moss forms the largest propor- 
tion. In some parts it is very deep, found often to a depth of 
twelve feet. In those parts where its depth is less, its fresh ap- 
pearance indicates rapid growth. The soil in the valleys, and 
covering the sides of the hills, is sandy and gravelly. The land 
abounds in springs ; consequently, to be brought into a state of 
culture, it requires to be intersected with frequent drains. 

Plants. — The moors produce heather, deers'-hair and cotton- 
grass, intermixed in proportions said to be highly favourable for 
the feeding of sheep. The hills are covered with heather on the 
tops, but on their sides a mixture of fine grasses is to be found ; 
and, around their bases, red and white clover, and mountain daisy, 
are conmion. The meadows and straths are covered with the 
meadow grasses prevalent in similar situations, and, where irrigated, 
are very productive. 

Zoology, — Roe-deer may always be seen here, but not in great num- 
bers. The red mountain-dee r is occasionally seen crossing the moors 
to or from the mountains north of this, which abound in that species 
of animal. The gray mountain-hare is here common on the higher 
grounds. The brown hare, and of late the rabbit, are found on 
the lower grounds, — the former exceedingly numerous. Moor- 
fowl are still abundant, though less so, it is said, than they have 
been. Black game, which are said to increase as moor-fowl de- 
crease, are become very numerous. 

Goats were once a part of the stock of the inhabitants, but they 
have now nearly disappeared, giving way to more profitable animals. 
There is a species of sheep, of small size, formerly the only kind 
known here, still reared by the occupants of small lots of land, and 
much commended for fineness of fleece and excellence of mutton ; 
but they are likely soon to disappear also, — those who have them 
appreciating the better size of the Cheviot sheep. 

A great variety of trout is found in the lakes. Salmon, grilse, 
and sea trout, are taken in the Brora and Fleet. The trout make 
for the bums falling into, or issuing from, the lakes, in the month 
of October, to deposit their spawn ; and their spawning season lasts 



generally till the beginning of November, and seldom or never ex- 
tends beyond the middle of that month. Salmon begin to spawn 
fourteen days later, and before the middle of December ; that 
process being finished, they return to the sea. Salmon enter the 
Fleet in the end of May. They are found, and were taken, till a 
recent act of Parliament prohibited, at the mouth of the Brora, as 
early as the end of January ; but they are not seen in the upper 
part of that river, — the part belonging to this parish, — till the 
commencement of summer. 

II. — Civil History. 

Land-'Oioners. — The Duke and Duchess of Sutherland are pro- 
prietors of nearly the whole parish of Rogart. The other proprie- 
tors of land in it are, George Dempster, Esq. of Skibo, and Hugh 
Rose Ross, Esq. of GlastuUich and Cromarty, who have each a 
small patch in it unconnected with their principal estates. 

Antiquities, — At a place called Corrie, where there are indica- 
tions of the existence in former times of oak trees, imperfect re- 
mains of a Druidical circle are to be seen. The inhabitants, quite 
unconscious of the sacrilege, finding the stones composing it suit- 
able, carried them away for the purposes of building, so that but 
few of them are now to be seen. 

Tradition accords with the rude but certain monuments of battles, 
in showing that Rogart was in past times the scene of violent con- 
tests, and of much bloodshed. A ridge of hills crossing the eastern 
extremity of the parish from north to south, and extending from 
Strathbrora to Strathfleet, is covered with tumuli, which appear 
to have been thrown over the slain where they fell. One of these 
was opened lately by dikers erecting a fence around the glebe, 
having no idea that they invaded the resting place of a warrior, 
probably of an ancestor. They found in the centre of it a stone 
coffin, containing mouldered bones, and the blade of a dirk, or 
short dagger, which seemed to have been wielded by the hand 
of some leader, being of a more costly description than the com- 
mon dirk, coated with gold, and marked with lines, crossing one 
another at acute angles, and terminating in the point. It is likely 
that this bloody instrument was broken, and covered, in the wound 
it inflicted, and was thus retained in the body of its victim. 

The Earl of Montrose on his return from Orkney passed un- 
molested through Strathfleet, where he and his followers halted 
for a night at a place called Rhin. The stillness and beauty of 


that spot forms a striking contrast with the stru^le and disaster 
to which the next day's march conducted him. From Rhin he 
marched to Strathoicail, on the heights of which this bravest of 
unfortunate men fought his last battle. 

III. — Population. 
A continued decrease is found in the population of the parish 

of Rogart since the year 1811, — ^as may be seen by comparing the 
census of that year with the census of 1831, and with these sta- 
tistics. This decrease has been caused by emigration to the pro- 
vinces subject to Britain in North America,— chiefly to Upper 

Population in 1801, 












For the last : 

seven years the average number of births is 




The number 

of persons under 15 years of age, 



betwixt 15 and 30, 



30 and 50, 



50 and 70, 



upwards of 70, 


The number of unmarried men, bachelors, and widowers, upwards of 50 years of 
age, is-- - - - - 25 

The number of unmarried women upwards of 45 years of age» is -46 

families is • - - - 386 

The average number of children in each family is - - 3 

The number of femilies in the parish, ... S86 

chiefly employed in agriculture, - - 279 

in trade, manufactures, or handicraft, 19 

The number of inhabited houses, ... 986 

houses now building, ... 4 

insane persons, - - - - 3 

fatuous, ..... 3 

dumb persons, - - - - 1 

Language. — The Celtic, or GaeHc, language is spoken by almost 
all the inhabitants. There are a few shepherds who do not speak 
this language ; but their families do. A considerable proportion 
of the inhabitants, however, can converse in the English language ; 
and, in a few years it is likely that none may be found who cannot 
do so. llieir English, being acquired from books, and occasional 
conversation with educated persons, is marked by no peculiarity, 
except a degree of mountain accent and Celtic idiom ; so that it 
is more easily intelligible to an Englishman than the dialect spoken 
by the Lowland Scotch. 

Charojcter of the People. — A desire for information . prevails 
among them, as, indeed, among all the inhabitants of the High- 


land districts ; and the degree of information they possess is 
more than could be expected from the advantages enjoyed by them. 
The young, in general, read Gaelic and English ; and some 'of them 
write and understand arithmetic Such of those advanced in years 
as have been taught to read, delight much in the Holy Scriptures, 
and in some of the popular works of the early divines of the church 
of Scotland, — ^which, having been read and talked of for genera- 
tions, have acquired a sacredness of character. They are all Pres- 
byterians, and firmly attached to the religion and modes of worship 
of their forefathers. They have hitherto been respectful to per- 
sons in stations superior to their own, peaceable and orderly in their 
intercourse with one another, and have seldom or never been charged 
with the commission of crime. Smuggling, happily for their cha- 
racter and circumstances, has been checked. Poaching in game, 
or in the salmon fisheries, is not attempted by them. 

There have been three illegitimate births in the parish during 
the last three years. 

IV. — Industry. 

A great part of the population of this parish is employed as 
day-labourers for more than half the year. The men find employ- 
ment in the making or repairing of roads ; or from the tacksmen in 
parishes along the coast as extra labourers in spring and harvest- 
time ; or, during the season of the herring fishing, in curing fish at 
the fishing stations. The women find employment with the farmers 
in weeding, hoeing, and cutting down crops, and with the fish-curers 
at the proper season. A certain portion of time is, of course, oc- 
cupied in the cultivation of their own lots, and in securing the 
crops which these produce. Some elderly persons of both sexes, 
helped by children not attending schools, are always occupied at 
home in herding cattle. 

Agriculture and Sheep^Farming. — The proportion of land in 
culture and yielding crops is small, and must always be so, while 
naked rock forms a considerable part of the surface of the pa- 
rish. It has, however, for several years back, been increasing ; 
and it is likely, that, in the course of some years, what is now 
occupied by letters, if left in their occupation, may become culti- 
vated where practicable. The quantity of land cultivated, or oc- 
casionally in tillage, does not at present exceed 1200 acres. 

Nearjy the half of the parish in value, and more than the half in 

extent, is laid under sheep of the Cheviot breed. It is no less than 



62,800 acres in extent Probably 1000 acres might yet be added 
to the cultivated land. 

Husbandry. — The pasture for sheep is good, and the sheep 
reared on it are said to be of the best quality of their kind. Sur- 
face draining, which has been carried on to a great extent, has 
added much to the quantity, and improved the quality, of feeding 
for sheep. In this species of improvement, little remains to be now 
done here by the sheep-farmer. Large farms are let on leases of 
nineteen, and small lots on leases of seven, years. 

Live-stock, — The number of sheep of all kinds is 6420 ; of 
black cattle, (heads of,) 1079; of horses, 276; of pigs, 210. 

Rent, — 

The rent of sheep-lands is • L. 648 

of corn-fiinns, - - 281 

of lands under lotters, - 569 

Total rent, - L. 1498 

Woods, — Timber as yet cannot be mentioned as one of the pro- 
ducts of the parish of Rogart. A small space in Strathfleet, about 
twenty acres, having some native plants of oak, was enclosed, and 
planted with larch and common fir. The appearance of this small 
plantation, which has been lately thinned for the first time, afibrds 
sufficient encouragement for planting in situations equally favour- 
able ; of which situations the sides of that strath, and several other 
parts in the parish, present many. Small alders are to be seen along 
the streams ; and patches of dwarf birch are common. Both of 
these, when in foliage, enliven the aspect, and relieve the ruder 
features of the scenery ; but otherwise they are of no value. 

Produce, — The average gross amount and value of raw produce 
yearly raised in the parish, as nearly as can be ascertained, is as 
follows : — 

Grain of all kinds, whether cultivated for food of man or the domestic animali, 3000 
bolls at las. per boll, .... L.2250 
Potatoes, 1500 bolb at 8ft. per boll, - . . 600 
Hay, 10,000 stones at 4d. - . - . 166 13 4 
Land in pasture, rating it at 10s. per cow or full-grown ox, grazed, or 
that may be grazed for the season ; at 2b. per ewe or full-grown 
sheep, pastured, or that may be pastured for the year, - 1300 
Miscellaneous produce, including turnips, cabbages, &c. not enume- 
rated under any of the foregoing heads, ... 400 

Total yearly value of raw produce raised, - 1^.4716 13 4 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Means of Communication, — A road extends through the whole 
length of the parish along Strathfleet ; and another crosses its 


breadth at the eastern end, from Strathfleet to Strathbronu 
The road in Strathfleet is a continuation of a line of road {torn 
Golspie to Tongue ; from which roads branch off in various direc- 
tions. From the cross-road to Strathbrora there is a road branch- 
ing off to Golspie, and forming a more direct and shorter way to 
that village for the mhabitants of the interior of the parish* Along 
these lines of road there are sufficient bridges. 

There is no post-office in this parish. Letters to and from it, 
for which there is a receiving-office at Pitentrail, are carried twice 
a-week by a mail-gig running between Golspie and Tongue. It 
is probable, other improvements continuing to advance, that the 
communication may become more frequent. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The church and manse are situated, not 
far from each ofher, in one of the most elevated parts of the pa- 
rish, commanding an extensive and romantic view, — in which the 
peaks of almost all the high mountains in the county of Sutherland 
form a part. This is a source of enjojTnent which is dearly pur- 
chased, by the exposure to the wind and storm. ^ The manse was 
built in the year 1776, and the church in 1777. The church has 
undergone some repair, and the manse has frequently been re- 
paired ; but, owing to the very exposed situation of the latter, 
it cannot be said to be in a good condition. For the parish, 
the situation of the church is most inconvenient, — being in its ex- 
treme boundary on the east Consequently, some of the parishion- 
ers travel ten miles in coming to hear sermon ; which, being doubled 
before they return to their homes, is a severe exertion, though it 
be cheerfully made, even in the short days of winter. The dis- 
tance of the parishioners from the manse is also productive of much 
trouble and inconvenience to them. Having few besides their 
minister whom they consult, various and often recurring are the 
occasions which oblige them to travel from their place of resi- 
dence to his. 

The minister's stipend is L. 138, 14s. 2^\d. Sterling, and 15 
bolls, 1 firlot, 1 peck, 3 lippies, half-meal and half-barley, includ- 
ing the allowance for communion elements; so that he draws 
L..3, Is. 5d. from Exchequer, to make his income equal to the 
minimum stipend in the Church of Scotland. The glebe con- 
sists of arable and pasture land. The arable part has lately been 
considerably increased, by trenching small sjpots capable of im- 
provement : so that it may be about eighteen acres in extent A 


patch of green pasture, rocks, and spots covered with stinted heather, 
extend its surface to about twenty-five acres. Occupied alone, its 
value is not much, — servants, horses, and farming implements suf- 
ficient for the culture of a small farm being required for it But if 
held along with an extent of land which would enable him to cul- 
tivate it conveniently, the occupant might find the arable part of 
it worth 15s. per acre, and the pasture of corresponding vadue. 

Tlie church is the only place of worship in the parish. There 
is a catechist supported by an allowance from the inhabitants, to 
which the minister contributes : he labours constantly among them. 
The average number of communicants is 90. 

Education. — There are three schools at present in operation in 
the parish, — the parochial school, a school supported by the General 
Assembly, and a GaeUc school, supported by the Gaelic School 
Society. In the parochial school, English reading, writing, arith- 
metic, book-keeping, mensuration, and land-surveying, are taught. 
In the General Assembly's school, English reading, Gaelic read- 
ing, writing, arithmetic, and sometimes the rudiments of Latin, 
are taught In the Graelic school, the reading of the Gaelic only 
is taught. 

The salary of the parochial schoolmaster is L. 34, 4s. 4^d. 
The average amount of school fees received by him is L. 16. The 
salary of the General Assembly schoolmaster is L. 20. The ave- 
rage amount of school fees received by him is L. 2, 10s. 

The teacher of the Gaelic school is not allowed to take fees, by 
the regulations of the society. He is not stationary in any place. 
His salary is L. 25. To these teachers the requisite accommo- 
dations are given. Fees are exigible from those who can pay 
them in the General Assembly's school, at the same rate as in 
the parochial ; but the greater part of the scholars are not in cir- 
cumstances to afford them. In the parochial school, the fees per 
quarter are, for English reading, 2s. ; English reading and writ- 
ing, 2s. ; English reading, writing, and arithmetic, ds. ; book- 
keeping, 10s. ; mensuration and land-surveying, 10s. Many of 
the inhabitants cannot read or write : Of these, the number of all 
ages above six years, given in the Report to the General Assem- 
bly's Committee in 1832, was 842 ; and the number betwixt six 
and twenty years, 290. 

There is a district of the parish, Barrschol and Craiggies^ con- 
taining a population of about 200, which is four miles distant from 


the parochial school, and has no other school within reach. 
There is another district of the parish, in which some families re- 
side, Braes of Langwel and Achinluachrach^ at a still greater dis- 
tance from any permanent school, in which the Gaelic Society's 
teacher at present officiates. 

Poor and Parochial Funds, — On an average of years, the num- 
ber of paupers regularly receiving parochial aid may be stated at 84 ; 
but, in addition to these, there are several who receive occasional 
aid. Persons admitted on the poors' roll are generally advanced 
in age ; and charges for the interment of paupers form a consider- 
able expense on the fund. This fund consists of a yearly donation 
from the Ducliess of Sutherland, regularly made, but depending 
on her Grace's good will, interest of L. 200 bequeathed by a be- 
nevolent individual, a native of the parish, and the church col- 
lections, the yearly average amount of which is L. 16. The 
average annual allowance to each pauper for some years back has 
been 4s. 9d. It has been felt degrading to receive parochial re- 
lief ; but there are many applicants for it who are rejected. 

Inns. — There are three houses in the parish, and one on the 
confines of it, licensed to retail spirits. They are found injurious 
to the morals and circumstances of the working classes. 

FueL — Moss, cut as peats in the months of May and June, 
and abounding of the best quality at no great distance from the 
inhabitants, is the fuel used by all. It is procured at considerable 
expense of time and labour ; but the very poorest never fail to 
supply themselves with a stock sufficient for the year's consump- 

Miscellaneous Observations. 
In the parochial school, writing and accounts have been so 

well taught for several years back, that many young men have set 
out from the parish, and found employment, some as clerks in 
mercantile towns, and some on plantation estates in the West In- 
dies. In general, these are reported to be persevering and indus- 
trious ; and small remittances frequently made to poor relatives, 
afford a pleasing proof that they are prosperous. Were the means 
of acquiring education given more fully, there is reason to con- 
clude that, in every respect, an improvement in the condition of 
the inhabitants must follow. 

Roads and bridges justly claim particular mention in the im- 
provements which have taken place here, since the time of the last 


Statistical Account. They have changed the mode, as well as im- 
proTed the facility, of every species of carriage. Sledges, which may 
soon become one of the objects interesting to the antiquary, were 
formerly the best means of carriage which those in better circum^ 
stances could use in farming, and for other purposes. Now, almost 
every poor man who cultivates a croft of land, has his wheeled cart. 

The greatest change has taken place in the habits of the people 
since the last Account. They are now very industrious in general, 
and surpassed by none around them as willing, skilful, and active 
l^ourers in all those kinds of work which the extensive and varied 
improvements carried on in the county have supplied to its po- 

The traveller interested in the comfort of the working-classes 
must regard the cottages in this parish as pleasing objects ; and 
their number, seen, as they often are, in picturesque situations, must 
strike every observer, as giving life and interest to the scene pre- 
sented to his view. In no part of the North Highlands, are there 
so many well built neat-looking cottages as in the county of Suther- 
land. Whoever sees them, must form a favourable idea of the 
industry of the inhabitants, and of the encouragement afforded 
them by the proprietor of the soil. 

September 1834. 






L — Topography and Natural History. 
Name^ Extent^ Sfc. — This parish seems to lake its name from 

the Gaelic word " Loeg^^ signifying a " footpath." This defini- 
tion agrees well with its situation, as the road from the northern 
to the southern parts of the county, which till recently was only 
a footpath, passes through Lairg. Its length may be stated at 
thirty miles from £• to W., and its greatest breadth is about four- 
teen miles. Its extent in square miles, inclusive of the lake, is 
about 240 miles. 

Topographical Appearcmces. — It is an inland parish, distant 
from the sea about twenty miles; it is bounded on the north by the 
parish of Farr; on the west by Assynt and Eddrachillis ; on the 
south by Criech ;* and on the east by Rogart. There are hills of 
various elevations in most parts of the parish, and on its northern 
boundary stands Ben Clybric, the highest mountain in Suther- 

From the elevation of the parish above the level of the sea, 
which, though not minutely ascertained, is very considerable, the 
air is always pure, and in winter exceedingly cold. But though a 
good deal of rain and snow fall during the year, the climate can- 
not be called rainy : it is at all events a healthy one, and there are 
no distempers peculiar to the district. 

Hydrography, — There are about twenty lakes in the parish, of 
various extent and depth ; but the principal one is Lochshin, which 
runs very nearly from one end of the parish to the other. It is 
about twenty-four miles long; its mean breadth is at least one mile, 
and its depth in some places thirty fathoms. — There are five rivers 
in the parish, some of them very rapid. Four of these fall into 
Lochshin, and the fifth discharges its waters into the sea. 

Geology, — The geology of the parish has never been surveyed, 
but the principal rocks are coarse granite and trap. There is al- 
so at the side of the lake a large bed of limestone. 

LAIRG. 59 

The most common alluvial deposit is peat, between which and 
the rock, gravel is generally found. In some places, however, the 
soil is loamy and fertile. Immense quantities of fir are found im- 
bedded in the moss in all parts of the parish, — a proof dat at one 
time the ground was covered with wood. At present, however, 
there is none except some birch which grows along the lake. 

IL — Civil Histoey. 
This parish does not appear in remote times to have produced 

any men of great eminence. In the absence of such, a few indi- 
viduals may therefore be mentioned, connected with, or natives of, 
the parish during the last century, and whose names are not un- 
worthy of a place in this record. 

The first we shall notice, is the Rev. John Mackay, a man of 
superior birth and education, who in 1714 was translated to Lairg 
from his native parish of Durness on the west coast Mr Mackay 
found this parish in a rude uncivilized state, owing, among other 
causes, to the lingering remains of popish superstition and igno- 
rance, and to the want of a resident ministry for several years be- 
fore. The Earls of Sutherland, the hereditary sheriffs of the 
county, strenuously endeavoured to remedy this evil, but found it 
difficult to procure faithful ministers of the Gospel, able to admi- 
nister spiritual instruction to the people in their native language. In 
Mr John Mackay the Earl of Sutherland found a man peculiarly fit- 
ted for such a charge, — as, with a profound knowledge of theology, 
acquired at the Universities of Utrecht and Edinburgh, and an 
enlightened zeal for the propagation of the gospel, he had a robust 
bodily frame, and corresponding vigour of mind. The parish af- 
forded ample scope for the exercise of his talents, — disorderly 
habits and immorality prevailing to a great degree, and drunken 
quarrels, even to the effusion of blood, being of frequent occur- 
rence in the churchyard on the Lord's day, after divine service, as 
appears from a fragment of the session records still extant To 
repress such enormities, the Earl invested his new presentee with 
a salutary, though not strictly legal power, to use force and inflict 
corporal punishment when he judged it necessary. Armed with 
this authority, Mr John Mackay proceeded vigorously to the work 
of reformation among his people ; in which he was further assisted 
by a certain air of moral elevation in his bearing, which overawed 
persons of the most profligate character. He sometimes had re- 
course to very strong measures : but at length, by the blessing of 
God on his spiritual labours, he had the satisfaction to see pure 
religion in a flourishing state among his people. He died in 1753, 


and was succeeded by his son, the Rev. Thomas Mackay, who 
laboured fifty years in the parish with great success. The names 
of both father and son are still remembered with affectionate reve- 
rence. Mr T. Mackay left three sons, of whom the two youngest, 
Hugh and William, distinguished themselves in their respective 

Hugh Mackay entered the service of the East India Company 
in 1784, and served in the Madras Native Cavalry during all the 
wars in which the Madras army was engaged. He held an im- 
portant and lucrative staff appointment, that of agent for draught 
and carriage cattle to the army under General Wellesley, now 
the Duke of Wellington, whose favour and confidence he en- 
joyed to a large degree. His staflF situation exempted him from 
regimental duty ; yet such was his high military spirit, that, rather 
than remain idle in the rear, when his brother ofiicers were engaged, 
he solicited permission to join his regiment in the battle of Assaye, 
and obtained from the General a reluctant assent. He was killed at 
the muzzle of the enemy's guns, in that desperate charge of the 
cavalry which decided the fate of the day ; and on the spot where 
he fell, the officers of his regiment have erected a monument to 
his memory. Besides many acts of beneficence at home and 
abroad, he bequeathed at his death L. 500 to the kirk-session of 
this parish, for the use of the poor. 

William, third son of the Rev. Thomas Mackay, was educated 
at the school of this parish, and went to sea at the age of sixteen. 
He made several voyages to the East and West Indies, during the 
intervals between which, he studied the theory of navigation and 
practical astronomy under able teachers in London, and became 
such a proficient in both, as to be esteemed one of the most skil- 
ful navigators in the Indian seas. In 1795, being second officer 
of the ship Juno of Calcutta, he was sent to the coast of Pegu for 
a cargo of teak-wood, and in his return was wrecked on the coast 
of Arracan. The ship sprang a leak, and filled so fast with water, 
in spite of the exertions of her crew, that, but for the nature of her 
cargo, she must inevitably have gone to the bottom. She conti- 
nued, however, to sink till her hull was under water, and then settled 
down, leaving her masts to stand erect. To lighten her burthen 
the main mast was cut away, and the unfortunate crew, seventy-two 
in number, scrambled up the rigging of the two remaining masts to 
escape immediate destruction. In this situation, without food or 
water, but what the rain from Heaven supplied, fourteen individuals, 
including the captain's wife and her maid, lived twenty-three days. 

LAIRG. 61 

Of the riest, some died from hunger, others from thirst, and a few in 
strong convulsions or in raving madness ! The wreck having at length 
taken the ground, fourteen were saved by the merciful interposition 
of Providence in their behalf. The principal survivor was William 
Mackay, and he pubHshed a narrative of the sufferings and escape of 
himself and his companions, — ^which, from the extraordinary nature 
of the facts, and the graphical felicity of his narration, bids fair to 
transmit his name to posterity. * 

Immediately after this wonderful preservation, William Mackay 
returned to sea, and after various adventures, was in 1 801 dispatched 
by the Bengal government in command of a brig, to the Red Sea 
with stores and provisions for General Baird's army, destined to 
co-operate with that of Sir Ralph Abercromby in Egypt. On this 
voyage, he had another marvellous escape from shipwreck, and 
was instrumental, by superior seamanship, under God, in saving 
the lives of many others, as may be seen in the appendix to a late 
edition of the Narrative of the Juno. He died at Calcutta in 1804, 
from an affection of the liver, contracted during the twenty-three 
dreadful days he passed on the wreck, f In the churchyard of this 
parish there is a square monument with a separate tablet for each, 
commemorating, by an appropriate inscription, the characters of 
the Rev. John Mackay, his son, and two grandsons. Concern- 
ing the last, it is said, " their bodies lie in the opposite quarter 
of the globe, but their monument is erected where their memory 
is dearest, near the remains of their pious fathers, and amidst many 
living, whose gratitude will attest, that fraternal affection has not 
overcharged this record of their virtues."J 

* It is a circumstance worthy of remark, that from this narrative Lord Bjrron 
has borrowed some of the finest incidents and most touching images in the de- 
scription of a shipwreck, in his poem of Don Juan. Concerning these passages the 
biographer of the noble poet observes • " It will be felt, I think, by every reader, 
that this Ls one of the instances in which poetry must be content to yield the palm to 
prose. There is a pathos in the last sentences of the seaman's recital (see Narrative 
of the Shipwreck of the Juno, page 26,) which the artifices of metre and rhyme wei e 
sure to disturb, and which, indeed, no verses, however beautiful, could half so natu- 
rally and powerfully express." It deserves to be recorded, to the honour of our Scot- 
tish parochial schools, that this narrative was written by a young man who had gone 
to sea ten years before, without any more education than he received at the school of 
his native parish. 

f A tribute of remembrance, similar to that which his brother's memory received 
from his regiment, has been paid to the memory of W^illiam by his friends, who have, 
in the churchyard of Calcutta, recorded his worth, sufferings, and death. 

^ It may not be irrelevant to subjoin a list of sons or grandsons of the clergy, who, 
at the time above referred to, were on General Wellesley's staff, and all of whom had 
been recommended to him solely by their own merits viz* 

iH, Captain Hugh Mackay, agent for draught and carriage cattle to the army, 
killed at Assaye, 2dd September 180a 

2di Captain, afterwards I^icut.- Colonel Sir Robert Barclay, K. C B., Adjutant- 
General, Son of the Rev. Mr Barclay, minister of Del ting, Shetfcind, deceased. 


lAxnd'Ovmers.'^The land-owners in the parish are the Duchess 
of Sutherland ; Munro of Poyntziield ; and Rose of Achany. 

Parochial Register. — There is a parochial register regularly 
kept, but the earliest entry is dated only in 1768. 

Antiquities. — There is at a place called " Cnoek a chath" (the 
Hill of the Fight) a number of tumuli, said to be the graves of those 
who fell in a skirmish between the Sutherlands and the Mackays. 
There are also found in various parts of the parish strong circular 
buildings called cairns. What the design of these was, cannot now 
be ascertained. When the people are questioned on this subject, 
the only answer is, — " They were built by the Fingalians." It is a 
curious circumstance, that one of these buildings is always visible 
from the site of another. 

IIL — Population. 

The present population of the parish is about 1100. Wliat 
the ancient state of the population was, cannot now be discovered : 
but about thirty years ago, it was far greater than at present A 
system commenced in this country about the year 1807, which has 
been followed out extensively. As the interior of the country con- 
sisted principally of moor grounds covered with heath, the pro- 
prietors were convinced that these grounds could be more profit- 
ably laid out in sheep-walks, than (as formerly) in the rearing of 
black*cattle. With this view, the interior was let to sheep-farmers, 
and the tenantry were removed either to the coast, or to those 
parts of the country more susceptible of cultivation. Lairg, being 
an inland parish, this circumstance accounts for the great de- 
crease in its population. From Mr Rose's property, the tenants 
were all removed some years before he purchased it ; and although 
the Duchess of Sutherland and Munro of Poyntzfield have still a 
considerable number of tenants, yet they are far less numerous 
than formerly. 

As to the measure of comfort enjoyed by the people, the chief 
want is pasture for their cattle during the summer months. The 
Duchess of Sutherland's tenantry have their land on very mo- 
derate terms; and though their pasture is at present confined, 
this defect (we believe) is to be immediately remedied. The 
other tenants in the parish are certainly less comfortable, — they 

2d, Captain, now Lieut.- CoL, 'William Cunningham, Quarter-master- General, 
grandson of the Rev. Mr Robertson of Gladsmuir, and nephew of Principal Robert- 

4th, Captain, afterwards Mijor- General Sir John Malcolm, G. C. B., political 
agent to the Governor- General, afterwards governor of Bombay, deceased. 

IrAIRG. 63 

not only want pasture, but their rents far exceed the value of the 
land ; and the appearance of their houses tells but too plainly the 
condition of their inhabitants. The population of the parish is 
now rapidly decreasing, as may be seen from the following state- 
ment : — 

Population in 1801, - 1209 

in 1811, . 1354 

in 1821, . 1094 

in 1831, . 1045 

1. Xtimber of families in the parish, > ... 206 

chiefly employed in agriculture, - - 124 

chiefly employed in trade, manufactures, or handicraft, 6 

2. The average number of births yearly for the last 7 years, . . 27 

ordeaths, . . . . 154 

of marriages, ... .3 

Language^ Character^ 8fc. of the People — The language gene- 
rally spoken is the Gaelic ; and, although all the young people 
now speak English, the Gaelic can hardly be said to have lost 
ground, and the people, from being taught to read it, speak it more 
correctly than they did some years ago. 

The inhabitants of the parish are an interesting people ; — they 
are cleanly in their habits, and neat in their dress ; they combine 
intelligence with modesty, and due respect for their superiors ; they 
are sober, moral, and industrious ; and they show a becoming re- 
gard for the ordinances of religion. 

IV. — Industry. 
' Agriculture and Rural Economy. — From the description already 

given of the parish, as consisting principally of moor ground, it 
will be seen that very little can be said under the head of agricul- 
ture. There is no great corn farm in the parish ; and, with the 
exception of the lots occupied by the tenants, (which all lie within 
two and a-half miles of the church,) the whole of it has been turn- 
ed into sheep-walks. The breed of sheep on these farms is the 
Cheviot, and that, too, we believe, of a superior kind, — as much 
attention has been paid to its improvement in all parts of the county. 
The average rent of grazing on the sheep farms does not exceed 
2s. a-head ; but what number of sheep there are on these farms, the 
writer has no means of discovering. The lotters on the Duchess 
of Sutherland's property raise, in favourable seasons, as much corn 
as supplies their families during the year ; and of late, a very de- 
cided improvement has been manifested in the mode of cultivating 

their land. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 

Means of Commtmication. — There is no market-town in the pa- 
rish, nor any nearer than Dornoch, which is distant from Lairg 


about twenty miles. This want, however, is little Telt, the people 
having every advantage as regards the means of communication 
with other parts of the country. The roads (of which there are 
about forty miles in the parish) are excellent There is a post- 
office, at which a post-gig carrying passengers arrives twice a-week ; 
and an idea of the means of communication enjoyed may be had 
from the fact, that the London papers are received at Lairg on the 
morning of the fifth day from the day of publication. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The parochial church, though distant about 
twenty miles from the western extremity of the parish, is exceed- 
ingly well situated for the convenience of the people, as, with few 
exceptions they all reside in its neighbourhood. It was built in 1 794, 
and is always kept in a good state of repair. It accommodates 
about 500 people, and no seat-rents are exacted. — The manse 
was built in 1795, and was last repaired about eight years ago. 
— The glebe contains ten acres of arable land, and may be 
valued at L. 8 a^year. At one period, there was a considerable 
extent of hill pasture connected with the glebe; this, however, 
has been lost by reason of a circumstance of common occurrence 
in the Highlands, — the clergy neglected, till it was too late, to 
have their glebes regularly designed. — The stipend amounts to 
L. 184, 14s., including L.8, 6s. 8d. for conununion elements. The 
parish church is always well attended : and it is worthy of remark, 
that there is no dissenting place of worship in the whole county 
of Sutherland, — a fact which cannot be affirmed of any other county 
in Britain. 

Education. — The parochial school is the only one in the parish. 
Till lately, there was an Assembly school on Major Munro's 
property, but, owing in a great measure to the thinness of the po- 
pulation, it has been discontinued. This is the only part of the 
parish where a school is required at present. In the parochial 
school, one of the best in the country, all the common branches 
of education are taught The following table of fees, appointed 
by the presbytery, will give an idea of the expense of education. 
English and Gaelic reading, Is. 6d. a quarter; English grammar, 
6s. ; writing, 2s. ; arithmetic, 2s. 6d. ; and Latin, ds. a quarter. 
The school is always well attended; and the interest which the 
people now take in the education of their children may be learned 
from the fact, that, whilst the persons above fifteen years of age 
who cannot read or write are to the rest of the population of the 
same age as 1 to 4, or in all 260, the proportion in the case of 
■ ihc^^^tween 5 and 15 is only as 1 to 10, or 30 in all. The 

LAIRG. 65 

schoolmaster has the legal accommodations. His salary is L. 34, 
4s. 4^d., and this, with school-fees, (which average L. 8, 10s. per 
annum,) makes his yearly income only L. 42, 14s. 4^d. 

Poor. — The poor of the parish are comparatively well provided 
for. The yearly collections are indeed small, not exceeding L. 12; 
but the Duchess of Sutherland makes a yearly allowance to the 
poor of all the parishes in which she Has property : and the poor of 
Lairg have, besides, an annuity of L. 25, being the interest of 
L. 150 left to them by Captain H. Mackay, above-mentioned. 

Miscellaneous Observations. 
On the difference between the present state of the parish, and 

its state at the time of the last Statistical Account, it is unneces- 
sary to enlarge. The change produced on the condition of the 
people by the introduction of sheep-farming has been already no- 
ticed, — a change which, though for the time it subjected the 
people to very serious inconvenience, is now showing its salutary 
effects in the increased industry of the population. In proof of 
this, we need only refer to the improvements so rapidly going oti 
in those parts of the parish possessed by the tenantry. 

It may here be observed, that nothing would tend more to ex- 
tend these improvements, than giving the* people increased facili- 
ties for obtaining lime. To accomplish this object, the people 
should be assisted in working the lime quarries found in this pa- 
rish ; nor can we doubt, from the enlightened management of the 
country, that this assistance will soon be afforded. We may far- 
ther recommend, as a grand means for enlarging the minds and im- 
proving the morals of the people, the establishment of a parish li- 
brary. The inhabitants, and especially the young, have a taste for 
reading, and would eagerly avail themselves of such an institution. 
For the awakening of this taste, they have been principally indebted 
to their present -parochial teacher; an individual who has laboured 
for years not merely to communicate the dry husks of mechanical 
learning, but to enlighten the mind, and thus improve the character. 

November 1834. 






I. — Topography and Natural History. 

Name. — The parish appears to have been called Farr, for more 
than 400 years. The name is probably derived from the Gaelic 
word Faire, a watch or centinel ; for, about half a mile north of 
the parish church is the ruin of a circular tower, or Dunn^ the 
nearest to the sea-coast of a chain of these ancient buildings, ex- 
tending for more than twenty-four miles into the interior. Not 
far from this Dunn, is the promontory called Farr Head, from 
which, in clear weather, there is a distinct view of that part of the 
northern ocean,' which lies betwixt Orkney and Cape Wrath. 
From this promontory, a centinel or watch could easily discover 
* vessels approaching the coast, and, during the period of invasions 
from Denmark and Orkney, could speedily communicate the ne- 
cessary intelligence to the inhabitants of the interior, by means of 
the chain of towers, and such signals as were then in'^use. This, 
however, is only a conjecture as to the name of the parish, found- 
ed on the geographical relation of the place now called Farr to 
Strathnaver, where the principal chain of towers was erected, and 
which strath, in ancient times, was the most populous and most 
interesting part of the parish. 

Extent and Boundaries. — The parish is about forty English 
miles long, from Baligil in the north-east to Muadale in the south- 
west ; and varies from eight to twenty miles in breadth, the nar- 
rowest part being in the middle of Strathnaver. It is bounded 
on the north by the Northern Ocean ; on the east, by the parish 
of Reay in Caithness ; on the south, by the parishes of Kildonan 
and Lairg; and on the west, by the parish of Tongue. Its figure 
is irregular. 

Topographical Appearances. — The principal mountain in the 
parish, and the highest in the county, is Bein Chlibrig. It is near 

FARR. 67 

the south-west extremity, and not far from the Parliamentary 
road from Bonar Bridge to Tongue, Its height is 3200 feet 
above the level of the sea. Its form is conical, especially towards 
the summit, which is called " MealTa'neuion^'* that is, the summit 
of the Bird, probably from its being the chief residence of ptar-^ 
migan in the parish. Towards the sea-coast, to the north-east, 
on each side of Strathnaver, there are several hills, of various 
dimensions; but they are all far below the elevation of Chli- 
brig, and have nothing in their form or relative position deserving 
of notice. Near the coast, the low hills exhibit a greater quan- 
tity of bare rock, and are in general more precipitous. 

The greatest quantity and extent of low flat land is in Strath- 
naver and Strathrathy in the interior ; and in Armidale and Mains 
of Strathy on the sea-coast There are several farms along the 
shore, in all of which there is a considerable extent of arable land ; 
but the surface is uneven. 

Straths. — The largest valleys are Strathnaver and Strathrathy, 
Strathnaver, a place from which the Noble family of Sutherland 
have one of their titles, is a beautiful valley, extending from the 
sea-coast, in a south-west direction, — a distance of about twenty- 
eight miles, including the ground along the river, the loch, and 
the Water of Mudale, beyond Lochnaver. Considering the ex- 
tent of this strath, the beauty and variety of the scenery, which 
almost invariably attract the notice of the traveller of taste, and 
the richness of the pasture it everywhere produces, this valley is 
undoubtedly the finest and most interesting Highland strath in the 
whole county of Sutherland. Strathrathy stretches directly south 
from the sea-coast, a distance of twelve miles ; it is about ten miles 
north-east of Strathnaver. Between these, along the sea-coast, 
are situated the valleys of Clachan, where the parish church and 
manse are built, Swordly, Kirtomy, and Armidale ; but these are 
quite diminutive compared to those already described. 

Caves^ Sfc. — There are several caves, natural arches, and fissures, 
along the sea-coast, and a few caverns in the interior. The most 
interesting of the caves are in the Aird of Kirtomy, Strathy, and 
Strathy-point. The finest natural arch is near Farr. It is de- 
scribed in Pennant's Tour, and referred to in the former Statistical 
Account of this parish. The largest cavern in the interior is in 
Cam a'Mhadii in Bein Chhbrig, noted in the traditional history 
of the parish as the retreat of a robber named Chisholm from In- 


verness-shire, who, more than a hundred years ago, had taken 
shelter there, and for some time supported himself by the deer of 
Bein Chlibrig, and the flocks of the neighbouring tenants. Any 
farther description of the caves and caverns in this parish is con- 
sidered unnecessary in this work. 

Bays^ §*c. — There are about thirteen miles of sea-coast, from 
Naver Bay in the west to Baligil Burn in the east. With the ex- 
ception of Kirtomy and Armidale, and a few more creeks where 
boats can land in moderate weather, the coast is either bold and dan- 
gerous to mariners, being composed of perpendicular or projecting 
rocks, from 20 to 200 feet high, against which the waves of the North- 
ern Ocean break with awful fury ; or there are shallow sands, on which 
heavy surges are almost invariably rolling. The bays are Naver, 
Farr, Kirtomy, Armidale, and Strathy. The principal headlands 
are, Airdniskich, Aird of Farr, Aird of Kirtomy, and Strathy Head. 
From this Head, the Lights of Cape Wrath and Dunnet Head 
are seen in clear weather. 

Climate. — Considering the latitude of this parish, which is 58*^ 
30' north, the temperature is on the whole mild ; and there are no 
diseases prevalent that can be ascribed to any peculiarity of the 

Hydrography, — In every district, valley, mountain, and hill of 
this parish, there is an abundant supply of perennial springs of ex- 
cellent water. So far as known to the writer, their chemical pro- 
perties have not been ascertained ; but it is evident many of them 
run on iron ore. The number of fresh-water lochs of various di- 
mensions in the parish is very considerable ; the largest of which 
are Loch Naver^ Loch Coir^na-feam^ and Loch Strathy, But the 
most interesting of the whole is Loch Naver, in respect both of ex- 
tent and scenery. It is 7 miles long, and about I \ miles broad. Its 
depth is ascertained, by sounding, to be in some parts 30 fathoms. 
Its shore is in some places pebbly, in other parts rocky and sandy. 
It is richly supplied from the adjacent hills, mountains, marshes, 
and valley ground, with large tributary streams, especially the rivers 
Mudale and Strathvagasty, which enter the loch near the inn of 
Aultnaharve. The scenery around it is very interesting, having 
Bein Chlibrig at no great distance on the south ; several low hills 
and abrupt rocks nearer its shore ; its banks beautifully skirted 
with a variety of indigenous trees growing to a considerable height ; 
— the distant hills of Kildonan to the south-east, and those of the 
Reay country to the west, appearing in their grandeur from certain 

FAllR. . 69 

points in its vicinity. And there is an excellent road on the north 
side of the loch, from which the tourist can see the whole with ease 
and advantage. 

The principal rivers in the parish are the Naver, the Borgie, and 
the Strathy. The Naver issues from the loch already described, 
near Achness, at which place it receives a large stream running 
from Loch Coir^na-feam. From Achness it runs north-east, a 
distance of eighteen miles, until it enters the ocean at the farm 
of Airdniskech. Besides its supply from Loch Naver and Loch 
Coir-na-fearn, it receives a number of considerable streams in its 
course through the strath, so that, when flooded in winter, it is 
the largest river in the county. The Naver is not rapid in its 
course, the declivity of the strath being very gradual. The 
Strathy flows from the loch of that name, and from the adja- 
cent hills and marshes; and is, when flooded, a large stream. 
The Borgie runs from Loch Loyal in the parish of Tongue ; and 
is, in some parts of its course, the boundary line between this pa- 
rish and Tongue. But its salmon-fishings have been for a long 
time the property of the Noble family of Sutherland. It enters the 
Northern Ocean within a mile of the Naver, at a place in the pa- 
rish of Tongue called Torrisdale. 

Geology and Mineralogy. — The rocks and stones in this parish, 
of which immense quantities are to be seen in every direction, 
especially along the coast, appear to be chiefly coarse granite, gneiss, 
and sandstone. In Kirtomy on the sea-coast, there is an exten- 
sive deposit of old red sandstone, mixed with conglomerate. At 
Strathy, there is a large quarry of white sandstone, which takes 
dressing by the chissel ; and near it, a considerable extent of lime- 
stone, from which excellent lime is manufactured for the supply of 
the parishioners. 

The most of the rocks and precipices along the shore exhibit a 
great variety of veins and fissures which cut across the strata, and 
greatly derange and alter them. But in many places on the coast 
and in the interior, the strata are distinctly and regularly arranged : 
and in such cases the inclination and dip are not many degrees 
from perpendicular. The most striking and marked exception is 
at Strathy, in the free and limestone quarries, where the strata are 

The soil along the coast, especially near the bays, is light and 
sandy ; on the banks of the Naver and Strathy it is composed of 
:sand, gravel, and moss ; and in the interior, at the base of the 


hills) and near the different lochs, except Loch Naver, the soil is 
a deep moss. 

Zoology. — It is reported traditionally, that bears and wolves at 
one period existed in this parish. But this must have been when 
those extensive forests of fir grew in this country, the remains of 
which are still found deeply imbedded in moss, and are raised by 
the parishioners for roofing their houses, and other domestic pur- 
poses. The only species of animals which existed in comparatively 
modern times in the parish, but which have now disappeared, are 
goats. About forty years ago, they were numerous, and serviceable 
to the inhabitants ; but, by the introduction of the sheep-farming 
system, they have been entirely exterminated. 

The sheep-farmers rear the Cheviot or white-faced kind of 
sheep. The letters have a breed of small Highland cattle ; a few 
ponies of a similar description ; and sheep of the black-faced kind. 

On Bein Chlibrig, and the adjacent higher hills, there are con- 
siderable flocks of red deer. Hares and rabbits are found in the 
parish. Ptarmigan, black-cock, grouse, partridge, plover, and snipe, 
are numerous in the hills, moors, and inland glens. A great num- 
ber of aquatic fowl frequent the sea-coast and fresh-water lakes ; 
and the woods of Strathnaver are throngly tenanted by various 
classes of birds. The cuckoo, lapwing, and swallow pay their an- 
nual visits ; and, so far as they escape the vigilance of game- 
keepers and vermin-destroyers — foxes, otters, wild cats, eagles, 
hawks, ravens, and carrion-crows, are to be found. 

In the larger rivers and lakes, there is abundance of salmon ; and 
in the lesser lochs and streams, trout are found in considerable 
quantities. There is a rich supply of cod, ling, haddock, and her- 
ring, in their season, on the sea-coast. Turbot and mackerel have 
been taken occasionally, and lobster is caught for the London market. 

Botany — The herbage of this parish is of a mixed character, 
varying according to the elevation of its mountains, hills, valleys, 
and shore ground : and, on the ^hole, the parish affords an inte- 
resting field for the botanist. If there be few rare plants, there is a 
rich profusion of those already well known in this country. The 
mountains, hills, and moors are generally covered with the com- 
mon red heather, deer-hair, and a long tough grass, called Flying 
Bent. In the softer marshes, there are extensive plots of cotton- 
grass. With a trifling exception, all the trees in the parish are in- 
digenous. Of these, there is a considerable variety,— such as the 
hazel or nut-tree, alder, roan-tree or mountain-ash, willows, and 

FARR. 71 

bircL The alder tree grows to a considerable size on the banks 
of the Naver and Loch Coir^na-feam; but the birch is the most 
abundant, and, on the banks of Loch Naver, the most flourishing 
wood in the parish. 

11. — Civil History. 

The only printed accounts of the ancient state of the parish, so 
Ceu* as known to the writer of this article, are to be found in Sir 
Robert Gordon's History of the Earldom of Sutherland, and in 
Mr Robert Macka/s History of the House and Clan of Mackay, 
published in 1829. Any manuscript documents tending to throw 
light on the ancient state of the parish, which might have been in 
the possession of heritors, or wadsetters, formerly occupying lands 
within its bounds, are supposed to be now in the archives of the 
Duke of Sutherland, the proprietor of the whole parish. The 
most accurate geographical description of the boundaries and lo- 
calities of the parish is to be found in a map of the county, lately 
published by Mr Burnet, from a particular survey taken by order 
of the late Duke of Sutherland. 

Parochial Registers. — The only parochial registers extant are a 
book in which the minutes of the kirk-session are kept ; and ano- 
ther, in which births and marriages are recorded. The earliest 
entry in the first is in the year 1754; and in the second, in the 
year 1800. 

Antiquities. — The antiquities of the parish consist of the re- 
mains of several circular towers or dunns, built of large undrest 
stones without mortar ; a number of barrows or tumuli ; a few erect 
stones in the form of obelisks ; and the ruins of a castle built with 
mortar. The remains of the circular towers are in Strathnaver. The 
principal field of tumuli is about half a mile east from the parish 
church, close by the public road to Thurso. The finest erect stone 
is in the churchyard of Farr ; and the ruin of the castle is on a small 
peninsula about a mile and a half north of the parish church. The 
traditions connected with the more ancient relics are imperfect. It 
is reported, that the circular towers were built and occupied by an 
ancient race called, in Gaelic, Cruinnich^ from either of two Gaelic 
words, cruinn, round or circular; or cruinnachadh, a gathering. 
The tumuli indicate fields of battle, on which foreigners, especially 
Danes, and the native inhabitants, had bloody conflicts ; and the 
erect stones are said to point out the places where chieftains have 
been interred. This is very probable, from the circumstance of 
these stones being seen not far from the fields of tumuli ; as is the 


case at Dalharrold in Strathnaver, and in the church-yard of Farr. 
The stone in the latter place has been evidently brought there 
either from a foreign country, or from some other part of this king- 
dom. It is very hard, but diflfers entirely in its appearance and 
quality from any of the rocks in this neighbourhood. It is about 
twelve feet long, more than five feet being above ground, and as 
many under it. There is a regular figure carved on the west 
front of it, evidently hieroglyphic. — The ancient castle is sup- 
posed to have been the residence of the Mackays of Farr pre- 
vious to their being created barons, and obtaining the title of Lord 
Reay. It is not known by whom it was built. * 

III. — Population. 
From the remains of antiquity mentioned under the former head, 
it is evident there must have been a considerable population, either 
occasionally resorting to this parish, or permanently residing with- 
in it, at a very remote period of the history of Scotland. About 
400 years ago, the Mackays began to make themselves conspicu- 

* Connected with the antiquities of the parish, the writer may mention a few par- 
ticulars regarding a loch in Strathnaver, about six miles from the church,— to which 
superstition has ascribed wonderful healing virtues. The time at which this loeh 
came to be in repute with the sick cannot now be ascertained. It must, however, 
have been at a period of the history of this country when superstition had a firm hold 
of the minds of all classes of the community. The tradition as to the origin of its 
healing virtues is briefly as follows : A woman, cither from Ross-shire or Inver- 
ness-shire, came to the heights of Strathnavcr, ])retending to cure diseases by means 
of water into which she had previously thrown some pebbles, which she carried about 
with her. In her progress down the strath, towards the coast, a man in whose house 
she lodged wished to possess himself of the pebbles : but discovering his design, she es- 
caped, and he pursued. Finding, at the loch referred to, that she could not escape her 
pursuer any longer, she threw the pebbles into the loch, exclaiming in Gaelic, mo-nar, 
that is sliame, or my shame. From this exclamation the loch received the name 
which it still retains, " Loch-rno-nar,*' and the pebbles are supposed to have impart- 
ed to it its healing efficacy. There are only four days in the year, on which its 
supposed cures can be effected, llicse are the first Monday, old style, of February, 
May, August, and November. During February and November, no one visits it ; 
but in May and August, numbers from Sutherland, Caithness, Ross-shire, and even 
from Inverness-shire and Orkney, come to this far-famed loch. The ceremonies 
through which the patients have to go are the following : — lliey must all be at the loch 
side about twelve o'clock at night. As early on Monday as one or two o*clock in the 
morning, the patient is to plunge, or to be plunged, three times into the loch ; is to 
drink of its waters ; to throw a piece of coin into it as a kind of tribute ; and must be 
away from its banks, so as to be fairly out of sight of its water before the sun rises- 
else no cure is supposed to be effected. Whatever credit might I>e given to such ri- 
diculous ceremonies as tending in any respect to the restoration of health, while ig- 
norance and superstition reigned universally in this country, it certainly must appear 
extraordinary to intelligent persons, that any class of the community should now have 
recourse to and faith in such practices ; but so it is, that many come from the shires 
already mentioned, and say they arc benefited by these practices. It is, however, to 
be observed, that those who generally frequent this loch, and who have found their 
health improved, on returning home, are persons afflicted with nervous complaints and 
disordered imaginations, to whose health a journey of forty or sixty miles, a plunge 
into the loch, and the healthful air of our hills and glens may contribute all the im- 
provement with which they are generally so much pleased. 


FARB. 73 

ous in this <listrict as a clan. Fair and Strathnaver appear to 
have been the principal residence of the Mackays during the 
fifteenth, sixteenth, and part of the seven teeth centuries, and 
that clan is still the most numerous in the parish. After the 
Earls of Sutherland formed a marriage alliance with the Gordons, 
some of that clan came to reside in Strathnaver, — so that at one 
period, perhaps a hundred years ago, there were few in the parish 
but Mackays and Gordons. They are still the most numerous 

In ancient times, the inhabitants were no doubt in a very barba- 
rous state, living mostly by plunder, and robbed of their property 
in return. During the universal reign of Popery in Scotland, that 
system of belief found its way to this parish, and was most probably 
professed by all the inhabitants. The principles of the Reforma- 
tion were, at an early period after their introduction into Scotland, 
embraced by the Earls of Sutherland, and the first Lord Reay, 
and disseminated among the people of this parish. In consequence 
of this happy change in religious principles and views, civilization 
and good order advanced, and the parishioners gradually became 
a religious and moral population. 

The census of 1831, compared with the return in 1790, shows 
a decrease of 400 in the population. This was owing to the in- 
troduction of the sheep-farming system. By its adoption, the 
farmers and tenants who occupied the straths and glens in the 
interior were, in 1818 and 1819, all removed from these posses- 
sions. Allotments of land were marked out on the sea-coast for 
such as were thus removed. In these the greater number of the 
removing tenants settled ; but several families quitted the parish 
altogether, and thus diminished the population. 

The tenants, or lotters, on the sea-coast, live on their respective 
farms or townships. In these townships, there are from eight to for- 
ty-five hou5,es, according to the quantity of land ; and the houses 
stand at a considerable distance from each other, not in the man- 
ner of €1 regularly formed village. 

The number of families in the parish is - - - 418 

of families chiefly employed in agriculture, - - 314 

chiefly employed in trade, manufactures, or handicrafl, 1 1 

The average number of births for the last seven years, - - 55 

marriages, - - - - - 17 
No register of deaths is kept. 

Average number of persons under fifteen years, about - - 740 

from fifteen to thirty, - - - 500 

As there was no register of births and baptisms kept previous to 


the year 1800, it is impossible to classify the ages of persons above 
thirty years. It is certain, however, there are a number of healthy, 
active people in the parish from fifty to sixty, many from sixty 
to eighty ; and a few vigorous and stout from eighty to ninety. 

The average number of children in young famiUes, 5 ; the num- 
ber of insane in the parish, 1 ; fatuous, a female, 1 ; blind, a male 
and a female, 2 ; deaf, a male, 1 ; dumb, a male, 1. 

Langtuigei Character^ Sfc. of the People. — The Gaelic language 
is spoken in common conversation, and it is in that language that 
the people receive religious instruction with most advantage. Their 
language has been rather improved of late by means of Gaelic 
schools. The English, however, is gaining ground considerably, 
especially among the younger part of the population. The 
people are more cleanly in their habits than they were forty 
years ago. They dress neatly on public occasions, and in the 
cloths and cottons of south country manufacture, make a more 
showy appearance than their ancestors in the more homely but 
more substantial garbs wrought at home. Their ordinary food- 
consists of the produce of their lots, viz. oat and barley meal, milk, 
potatoes, and cabbages, — with fish, especially herring. Very little 
butcher meat is used by the natives ; but a considerable quantity 
of tea and sugar is consumed in the parish. 

The people are social among themselves; kind and hospitable to 
strangers, according to their circumstances ; acute and intelligent, 
according to their advantages ; moral in their general habits ; re- 
gular in attending on religious ordinances ; and many among them 
decidedly pious. Smuggling is entirely abandoned by them, and 
poaching is almost unknown. 

IV. — Industry. 
Agriculture and Rural Economy. — Except about 600 acres on 

the sea coast, which are kept in cultivation by the letters, the whole 
of the land of this parish, formerly in tillage, is, with the adjacent 
mountains, hills, and glens, laid out in extensive sheep walks. 
From the great extent of the parish, and the nature of its sur- 
face, it is impossible to give its measurement in acres with any de- 
gree of accuracy. The difierent plots of trees in the parish cover 
about 800 acres ; and of late years, considerable attention has been 
given to the woods in Strathnaver, by pruning and thinning. 

Rent of Land. — The average rent of the land occupied by the 
letters is 16s. per acre, including their privilege of hill-common 

FARR. 75 

and peat-moss. The rent ptid bj tbe sheep-farmers is mode- 

Mt^ ^ Waga, — ^The allowance to day labourers is from Is. 6d. 
to Is. 9d. per day often hours; to masons 15s.; to carpenters from 
9s. to 12s. per week. The lotters use the Highland delving spade 
in labouring their land. To this they are forced, partly by being 
unable to rear horses for the plough, and partly by the very un- 
even surface of their lots. The greater part of the land in their 
possession is susceptible of considerable improvement by trench- 
ing, draining, removing heaps of stones, inclosing their lots, and 
turning them with the plough. 

Hushandry. — The sheep farms are in the possession of gentle- 
men, who are sufficiently attentive to every kind of improvement of 
which pastoral districts are susceptible, — by draining, embanking, 
and burning heath. The leases of the sheep farmers are given 
for nineteen years : but the lotters on the coast are tenants at will, 
which is evidently a bar to the improvement of their lots. 

Fishings. — The principal fishings are those of salmon and her^ 
ring. Of late years, the rivers have been fished by the heritor, and 
the salmon sold at a certain rate per pound raw, to a Company who 
have a curing establishment in the parish. In consequence of 
this plan, the present rent of the salmon fishings of Naver, Borgie, 
and Strathy cannot be ascertained. The fishings are kept up by 
proper guards in close time on the rivers to prevent poaching; and 
by having a sufficient supply of fishing and curing materials during 
the fishing season. 

Produce. — As very little of the raw produce is brought to mar- 
ket within the parish, it is not easy to state its amount. The fol- 
lowing account is submitted, however, — giving an average of the 
last three years. 

Annual produce of the land occupied by the lotters, including oats, bear, and pota- 
toes, being the only crops they raise, - - - L. 2000 
Annual produce of sheep-farms in wool, . - - 8700 
Annual produce of shcep^fSEunns in wedders and ewes, sold to south 
country dealers, ------ 

salmon-fishings, .... 

herring-fishing, - - - . 

meadow- hay, . . . - 

Miflcellaneous, including dairy produce, black- cattle sold by the lot- 
ters, &c &c. -.---- 

ToUl annual produce, L. 14,390 

The fishermen on the coast have from fifteen to twenty boats 

* About 22,000 Gieviot sheep are annually graied in this parish, induing old and 
young stock. 


. 800 





of fifteen and twenty tons burden. During the herriug-fisliing 

season, ships from the south ports of Scotland, from England and 

Ireland, come to the coast to land cargoes of salt and barrels, and 

to carry the cured fish to market. There are no ships belonging 

to the parish. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 

• Means of Communication^ Sfc. — The nearest market-town is 
Thurso, thirty-two miles from this place. There is a post-of- 
fice here connected with that of Thurso ; and a mail diligence, 
drawn by two horses, and carrying four passengers, which runs 
three days in the week from Thurso to Tongue, and alternately 
back; and there is a weekly carrier from Tongue to Thurso. 
There are no turnpike roads in the parish; but a considerable 
extent of the Parliamentary road from Bonar Bridge to Tongue 
passes through the heights, and about sixteen miles of the ge- 
neral line from Tongue to Thurso run near the sea-coast. On 
the roads in this parish there are two bridges of three arches each, 
twelve of one arch, and a chain-boat on the river Naver. There 
are no regular harbours. The safest landing-places for boats are 
Kirtomy and Armidale. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The parish church is conveniently situat- 
ed for the population who are now attached to it, since the erec- 
tion of the Government church. It stands close to the sea-coast, 
and is about thirty miles from some parts of the interior. But 
these remote parts are occupied only by a few shepherds in the 
employment of the sheep-farmers. The parish-church was built 
in 1774, is a commodious and substantial building, and is kept in 
good repair. It is seated for about 750. The communion table 
is, on ordinary Sabbaths, free to the poor, and accommodates 
about 64. 

There is a Government church and manse at Strathy, ten miles 
east from the parish church. This church was built in 1826, and 
its present minister was appointed to it in 1828. It accommodates 
about 350 sitters. Thus, in a parish, the population of which is 
about 2100, we have church accommodation for 1160 persons. 

The manse was built in 1818, is a commodious house, and kept 
in sufficient repair. There are about six acres of arable land, some 
meadow-pasture, and a considerable extent of hill ground, with a 
right to peats, — legally designed as a glebe. The value of these 
may be estimated at L. 25 per annum. The stipend is L. 166, 
14s. Sterling, including L. 8, 6s. 8d. Sterling for conmiunion ele- 

FARR. 77 

ments. The teinds are exhausted. There is a catechist appointed 
by the kirk-session, and paid by tbe people. 

There is no Dissenting chapel in the parish ; and, with the ex- 
ception of one shepherd from the borders, who is of the Anti- 
burgher persuasion, and a shepherd's wife from Lochaber, who is 
a Roman Catholic, there is not a Dissenter of any description in 
the parish. Divine service is generally well attended, on ordinary 
and communion Sabbaths, in the parish and Government church ; 
and the people, old and young, are punctual in attending family 
and village examinations, are in general well acquainted with the 
Shorter Catechism of our church, and have regularly the worship 
of God in their families. The average number of communicants 
may be stated at 130. 

There is no society for religious purposes established in the pa- 
rish ; but, for the last nineteen years, collections have been made, 
almost annually in our congregations, for missionary and educa- 
tional objects in Scotland, and the average amount of these is about 
L 5, 10s. Sterling. 

Education. — There are at present four schools in the parish, viz. 
the parochial school; one supported by the Committee of the Ge- 
neral Assembly ; one by the Glasgow Auxiliary Gaelic School Sor 
ciety ; and one on the Second Patent of the Society for Propagat- 
ing Christian Knowledge in the Highland and islands of Scotland. 
The parothial schoolmaster is qualified to teach Latin, Greek, 
mathematics, and the ordinary branches of English literature ; and 
the teacher of the General Assembly's Committee is required to 
teach Latin, mathematics, English, and Gaelic. The branches 
generally taught, are English reading and grammar, writing and 
. arithmetic, and Gaelic reading. 

The parochial teacher has the maximum salary ; L. 3 Sterling, 
in lieu of a garden ; L. 1 13s. 4d. of session-clerk dues ; 4s. for 
proclaiming banns, and registering each marriage ; 6d. for record- 
ing each baptism ; and a house of three apartments. His rate of 
school-fees is, for beginners, 6s. per annum ; for reading and 
writing, 8s. ; for arithmetic, 12s.; and for higher branches* 20s. per 
annum. The teacher employed by the Committee of the Gene- 
ral Assembly has a salary of L. 25 ; three apartments ; a croft 
of land, and a garden from the heritor ; and fuel provided by the 
inhabitants of the district. He is allowed to exact fees, according 
to the rate demanded in the parochial school ; only in cases of in- 
digence certified by the minister and elders, a certain modification. 


or an ezemptioD altogether, is permitted. The teacher employ- 
ed by the Glasgow Society has L. 12 of a salary, and two apart- 
ments. He is furnished with fuel by the inhabitants, and is allow- 
ed to exact fees on the same principle with the teacher under the 
General Assembly's Committee. The teacher on the scheme 
of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge has L. 4 of 
salary, a house and croft of land, with fees. 

Last winter, about 240 individuals, from the age of five years to 
twenty, attended the different schools in the parish. But owing to the 
general poverty of the parishioners, and to the circumstance, that they 
are under the necessity of having their children, when they arrive at 
the age of ten or twelve years, emploiyed, especially in the summer 
and han*o$t months either in working about their own dwellings, 
or earning something for their roipport, in the service of others, — 
education is very imperfectly acquired by a majority of the young. 
Of thiv^ hom>en^r, from ten to thirt}* years of age, the greater 
numl^or do n^id either English or Gaelic ; many read both, and 
)i ^^^l?u^)orahlo number write, and can keep accounts. Even at 
iW oldo:i(l ago At which the people arrive, a considerable num- 
Wr ttn> found who read the Scriptures fluently, and with benefit. 
^t it is among the aged that the greater number are met with 
who can neither read nor write. In 1832, it was computed that 
870 persons of all ages above six were unable to read ; and 300 
betwixt six and twenty. 

The people value the benefits of education, and would most 
willingly give their children greater advantages, did their circum- 
stances allow it. A permanent school at Armidale, with those 
already established, would supply the inhabitants of the sea-coast 
with the means of education. It is impossible to place a school in . 
the interior, so as to accommodate its scattered and widely sepa- 
rated inhabitants, consisting of a few families of shepherds. 

Savings Bank. — A savings bank was established this year for 
the benefitof the whole county;— of which the Duke of Sutherland 
is patron and treasurer ; James Loch, Esq. M. P. president ; and 
the three resident factors of the Duke of Sutherland in this shire, 
vice-presidents. There are trustees appointed in this parish, who 
meet every fortnight to receive deposits and give out money as oc- 
casion requires. The head bank is at Golspie, near Dunrobin, 
the seat of the Duke of Sutherland. All deposits are sent from 
this parish to it; for which the contributors have the receipt of the 
patron and treasurer, and are allowed four per cent, interest on sums 

FARR. 7^ 

not exceeding L. 20. Little can be said yet of the advantages of 
this bank, as the first deposit was made in this parish only on the 
15th day of February last ; but considerable benefit b anticipated 
from it today-labourers, fishermen, and iarm-servants, in the course 
of a few years. The Duke of Sutherland is deeply interested in 
its prosperity. 

Poor and Parochial -FttnA.— The average number of persons 
receiving parochial aid is 76; and the average sum allowed them 
is from Ids. to ds. per annum, according to their circumstances, 
as certified by the elders of their respective districts. The an- 
nual average amount of contributions for their support, during the 
last five years, has been about L. 27 Sterling, arising from church 
collections, amounting to L. 20 per annum, and from donations by 
heritors, amounting to L. 8 on an average of the last five years. 
No other method of procuring funds for the poor has been resorted 
to, and in general they seem content with the existing system. The 
Marchioness of Stafford, now Duchess Countess of Sutherland, for 
more than twenty years gave, and continues to give, an annual do- 
nation of L. 6 to the poor of this parish. Occasional donations 
have been given, besides, by members of the Noble family when 
visiting this parish, and when important changes by marriages and 
births took place among them ; and by such means, a small fund 
is at interest for the benefit of the poor. 

Market — There is a market held at Bettyhill, near this place, 
on the first Wednesday of November, (N. S.) for general traffic. 

hms. — There are three licensed inns, so situated as to be con- 
venient to the parishioners and the public at large. Tippling- 
houses are entirely suppressed, and their extinction has a good ef- 
fect on the morals of the people in general. 

' Miscellaneous Observations. 
When the former Account was written, a considerable number of 

tacksmen, natives of the parish, occupied extensive farms in diffe- 
rent parts of it; and with them, a dense population of subtenants 
resided in the interior straths and glens. Now, however, all the 
lands, both hill and dale, which they possessed, are held in lease 
by a few sheep-farmers, all non-resident gentlemen, — some of them 
living in Caithness, some on the south coast of this county, and 
some in England ; and the straths, in which hundreds of families 
lived comfortably, are now tenanted by about twenty-four families 
of herds. In place of the scores of Highland cattle, horses, sheep, 
and goats, which formerly were brought to market, or used for do- 


mcstic purposes, now thousands of fleeces of Cheviot wool, wedders, 
and ewes, are annually exported. The people who had been re- 
moved from the interior in 1818 and 1819, when these great changes 
took place, are thickly settled along the sea-coast of the parish, 
— in some instances about thirty letters occupying the land for- 
merly in the possession of twelve; and some of them placed on 
ground which had been formerly uncultivated. 

This alteration in the locality of the parishioners has been fol- 
lowed by a corresponding change in the general system of their 
occupation. Instead of tending flocks, and following other avoca- 
tions connected with the habits of an inland population, they are 
now partly employed in cultivating their small pendicles of land ; 
but more vigorously engaged, especially the young, in preparing 
the necessary fishing implements, and prosecuting the fishing in 
its season. The females, in place of manufacturing tartans, and 
other woollen cloths, for their husbands, brothers, and other rela- 
tives, now use the spinning wheel in preparing hemp for herring - 
nets ; and the labour of the country weaver is considerably set 
aside by the knitting of the nets. The Garb of Auld Gaul is en- 
tirely superseded by thefisheniian's habilments; and our population, 
who in early life traversed the hills, moors, and crags of the inte- 
rior, now cautiously steer their boats on the waves of the Northern 
Ocean, and actively carry on the various labours connected with 
the fish-curing, stations. 

The changes referred to in the locality and in the employments 
of the inhabitants have had their influence on the state of society in 
the parish. Although there are greater facilities of communication 
than formerly with different parts of the kingdom, the manners of 
the resident population are not thereby improved. It is a well 
authenticated fact in this country, that the herring, fishing is not 
conducive to the improvement of the morals of those engaged in 
it. The leaseholders of our large sheep-farms are, as was already 
mentioned, all non-resident gentlemen. But the former tacksmen 
resided on their own farms, most of them having respectable and 
numerous families. By their education and status in society, as 
justices of peace, and officers in the army, their example, in their 
general intercourse with the people, had an influence in giving a 
respectable tone to society, which is now almost gone. There is 
not now a resident justice of the peace in the parish, whereas there 
was formerly a most respectable bench of such civil magistrates; and 
the permanent population being composed of letters, day-labourers. 

PARR. 81 

fishermen, and herds, the people, in general, are much more pie- 
bian, than when the former Account was written. On the other 
hand, the improvements by roads, bridges, more commodious inns, 
neater cottages, and more regular and sure means* of communica- 
tion, form a most interesting and pleasant variety since the' date of 
that Account An increase in the number of those who read the 
Scriptures in English and Gaelic, and a more extensive circula- 
tion of the sacred volume among the families of the parishioners, 
are also among the important changes which have since taken place. 
The openness of the winters, the absence of those heavy and long- 
continued storms of snow, which in former times were so destruc- 
tive to every description of stock, and the general mildness and 
fruitfiilness of the seasons, ought not to be omitted under this 
head. Since the harvest of 1816, there has not been an extensive 
failure in the ordinary crop of the parish. 

There is much room for improvement on the sea-coast, by a 
better system of husbandry among the letters, by rendering the 
landing-places for boats more commodious and secure, and by an 
increase of branch roads to some of the townships. It is much 
to be regretted that the inhabitants have not more permanent 
and regular employment during the winter and spring months; for 
by the want of such employment, a great portion of their time 
is wasted in idleness and dissipation ; whereas, they would most 
willingly avail themselves of any additional opportunities of labour. 

Auffust 1834. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 

Name. — The name Durness, or, as it is pronounced by the na- 
tives, Duirinish, is evidently of Graelic origin. * By some it has 
been derived from Dorratn, t. e. storms or tempest, and nis or ness 
a promontory. Others derive the word from Dvbh^ black ; raon^ 
field ; and ness or hw, a promontory, — Dybh-^hir-nis. But as the 
word ntss or nis is seldom, if ever, used to signify a point or pro- 
montory in Gaelic, it may with greater probability be derived from 
Dnrin^ the principal township in the parish, and innisj a green 
l^tch or grazing, — literally an oasis in a desert Hence the word 
Shintnessy a green knoll near the Deer Forest in this parish, is de- 
ri>t>d from sithin^ venison, and innisj a grazing. 

Formerly the parish of Durness comprehended the whole of the 
district known by Lord Heaths Country^ or, as it is called in Gaelic, 
Duthaich Mhic Aoij i. e. The Land of the Mackays^ extending 
from the river of Borgie near Strathnaver, to the Kyle of Assynt, 
and comprehending a space of about 800 square miles ! Since 
1724, it has been divided into three parishes, viz. Edderachillis, 
Durness, and Tongue : with the parish of Farr, it was disjoined 
from the presbytery of Caithness, and by Act of Assembly at- 
tached to the presbytery of Tongue. 

Boundaries. — It is bounded on the N. by the Northern Ocean; 
on the E. by the parish of Tongue ; on the S. and S. W. by Ed- 
derachillis; and on the W. by the Atlantic Ocean. Its greatest 
length from east to west is twenty-five miles, and its average 
breadth about twelve miles, — there being thus, including friths and 
lakes, about 300 square miles. 

Topographical Appearances. — The general aspect of this parish 

* Notwithstanding the frequent incursions of the Danes and other northern tribes, 
it is remarkable that they never succeeded in establishing themselves as separate co- 
lonies, or in giving names to the different places in the country, which, as every Gaelic 
scholar knows, are all, with hardly an exception, of Gaelic origin. 


is mountainous; and its surface is naturally divided into three parts, 
viz. Isty the Parf district, or that which Ues betwixt the Atlantic and 
the Kyle of Durness, ^d, Durness, properly so called, including 
all between the Kyle of Durness and Loch Eriboll. Sd, West- 
moin, which extends from Loch Eriboll to the middle of the mo- 
rass below Loch Hope, commonly called the Moin. 

Mountain Ranges, — In the Parf division, comprehending a sur- 
face of from 60 to 80 square miles, there are several mountain- 
ranges from 1500 to near 2500 feet in height, from Screbhisbheinn 
on the north, to Fairemheall on the south. Fairbheinn has a 
conical shape, and appears isolated from these and the other ranges 
of Creigriabhach and Bendearg, which have a S. W. direction, 
gradually diminishing to the Western Ocean. 

In the second division, the mountains are, Ceannabinn, Meall- 
meadhonoch, Ben Spionnadh, * and Cranstackie, which take a 
S. W. direction, and the mountains of Foinnebheinn and Meallhorn, 
which take a S. E. direction. This division contains an area of 
about 80 square miles. 

The third, or Westmoin division, having a surface of about 100 
square miles, contains several ranges of high and precipitous hills 
on the east side of Loch Eriboll, and clustered in various shapes 
and directions betwixt Strathmore and Strathbeg. In this division 
also is the lofty Ben Hope, 3150 feet above the level of the sea; 
it extends in a S. W. and S. direction along the narrow vale of 
Strathmore. The view of Ben Hope from the west has been al- 
ways admired by travellers, as perhaps the finest of its kind in the 
kingdom. The best view is at the inn of Cassildubh, near the 
upper end of Loch Hope. As there is no table-land, it rises with- 
in a few feet from the level of the sea, in abrupt and towering mag- 
nificence. The mind is filled with awe at the grandeur and sub- 
limity of the scene, and the eye is overcome with beholding the 
mountain as a whole, — except when occasionally relieved by viewing 
the trees of varied hue that diversify the scene, and adorn its base 
and its dark-blue terraces. Here is often seen the eagle soaring 
aloft ; and amidst its deep ravines, the red-deer and roe, pasturing 
in security, as if defying the stratagems of the hunter. Nor is the 
view from its summit less interesting. On a clear day, may be seen 
Lewis to the west, and the Orkney Islands to the north-east, as 
well as the principal mountains of Sutherland and Caithness, while 

* 2566 feet above the level of the sea by Mr Burnet's measurement. 



the numerous lakes through the country appear like specks, and 
its friths (when the view is not obstructed by adjacent hills) like 

Valleys. — In the Parf district, though there are several deep 
ravines, there are no valleys of any note. It consists chiefly of 
marshy loans and deep morasses several miles in extent, and inter- 
sected by the mountain-streams. A few green and fertile spots 
may be seen on its eastern shores. With the exception of the 
light-keepers at Cape Wrath, there are only four families, shep- 
herds, who reside in this extensive district. In the second district. 
Strath Dinard runs up the Kyle of Durness, and by the water of 
Dinard, to the south base of Fairemheall, and then takes a south- 
east direction along the side of Foinnebhinn, extending a distance of 
about fourteen miles. At the upper end of Loch Eriboll is Strath- 
beg, — a narrow but fertile vale of about two miles in length, and 
scarcely half a mile in breadth. The only other valley deserving 
notice is Strathmore, commencing at the north base of Ben Hope, 
and extending about six miles along the river. It is now inhabit- 
ed by one family ; whereas, formerly, it was inhabited by upwards of 
twenty, by no means affluent, but virtuous and contented. To the 
south, betwixt the mountains of Strathmore and Strathbeg, are 
GlengoUie and Corinessie, both celebrated by the muse of Rob 
Donn, as tlfe favourite haunts of the deer and the hunter. These 
contain almost the only remains of birch trees in the parish, which 
at one time diversified and beautified its straths and glens. It may 
be remarked, that, with the exception of those last mentioned, the 
straths are but a very few feet elevated above the level of the sea, 
and give an Alpine grandeur to the contiguous mountains. 

Caves. — Smo, ^c. — In a country so extensive and mountainous, 
and abounding in limestone, we may naturally expect to find caves, 
deep ravines, and fissures. Of these, Smo * is the most remark- 
able. It is about two miles east of the church, and may be ap- 
proached either by sea or by a pathway from the road. Directly 
above the cave, a beautiful waterfall arrests the eye. Descending 
from the road, about 100 yards to the shore, and crossing the 
water, after walking twehty yards, the traveller is suddenly ar- 
rested by the grandeur and magnificence of the cave, — whether 
he views the singular and massive construction of its Gothic- 
like and transverse arches, or its immense height and width; 

• In " DanielVK Coast Views," a front view of this cave may be seen. 


for, in some places, it is about 100 feet wide, and as many in 
height. Here, also, the noise of the waterfall steals on the ear ; 
and when the voice is raised, an echo is distinctly heard. Near 
the entrance, its stratified rocks have several tufts of ivy mantling 
over them, which add to the interest of the scene. The dark 
perforation on the right hand of the arch 'has of late years been 
explored ; it was believed by several of the natives, upon tradi- 
tionary information, to be the abode of fairies^ and the spirits of 
the dark ! ♦ 

There are also several extensive caves at Tresgill, at the east side of 
the entrance of Loch Eriboll. Sir Walter Scott visited these in 
1814, and they excited his admiration equally with that of Smo. 
They are approached only by sea. The grandest of these has a wa- 
terfall over its mouth. The deep and unknown extent of the fissure of 
Polaghloup, half a mile weet of the church, has been frequently ad- 
mired. The immense stocks or detached Gothic-like pillars at Ker- 
wic bay near Cape Wr^th, and at the Whiten Head, have been 
also much admired. Several other caves, fissures, and cascades, 
in the interior of the country, if found in parishes of less extent, 
would be deemed deserving of more detailed description. 

Coast, — That part of the coast which is bounded by the Atlan- 
tic and the Northern Ocean is bold and lofty. On both sides of 
Cape Wrath, of the Farout Head, and Whiten Head, the rocks are 
magnificent^ towering in most places from 200 to 700 feet of per- 
pendicular height. At Kervaic bay, the shore is low and sandy. 
At the bay of Balnakiel, there are several bills of sand, which fre- 
quently shift their places and forms, though generally covered with 
bent. Along the friths of Keoldale and Eriboll, the shores are 
generally precipitous and rugged, with intervening bays of sand or 

Islands. — These are, I. Garre&n, within 4 miles of Cape Wrath 
to the east, and 1 mile from the shore ; it is about 60 feet high, 
100 yards long, and about the same breadth ; here thousands of 

* The following is a short account of this cavern, as given by a young gentleman, 
one of a party who entered it in August 1833. " After providing ourselves with a 
small boat and lights, and raising them over the arch, we found ourselves in a lake 
about thirty yards long, and nearly as broad ; we now lighted our candles, and ap- 
proached an arch in the rock, under which we could just pass by lying flat on the 
boat. This opened to another lake of equal length, but gradually dimuiishing in 
breadth. Having at the upper end left the boat, we walked over the rock about 
thirty paces in the same direction. The height of the roof is various, from twenty 
to sixty feet, and its sides and bases are almost covered with stalactites and stalag- 
mites, formed from the dropping roof of the cave, which is entirely composed of lime- 
stone. The temperature of a well at the upper end we found to be 48° Fahr." 


different species of sea-fowl are reared. 2. Hoan^ 1 mile long, and \ 
mile broad; it lies near the entrance of Loch EriboU; is green and 
fertile, and supports four families. 3. Choaric, in Loch EriboU, about 
the same dimensions, and equally fertile. In both of the two latter 
islands, there are places of sepulture, which have been discontinued 
as such for upwards of a century. Tradition reports, that they 
were used for sepulture to prevent the depredation of wolves, which 
at one period infested the country. 

Meteorology. — Cape Wrath is the only place in the parish where 
observations have been recorded. ♦ After the autumnal equinox, 
and about two hours after sunset, the polar lights frequently ap- 
pear most splendid, and occasionally extend from the north or 
north-west like a belt over the whole horizon. On the 3d Sep- 
tember 1833, the horizon, from three to four p. m., presented a pe- 
culiar appearance, and that during sunshine, — as if tinged, though 
faintly, by the polar lights, rushing with great rapidity. . For some 
days after, the weather was dry and squally. When the Orkney 
Islands or the neighbouring mountains are clearly seen, either a 
storm, or the continuation of bad weather, is the certain conse- 
quence. When the sound of the breakers on the shore is heard 
distinctly, it indicates frost. The appearance of the swan is a 
precursor of snow. 

In a country so contiguous to the ocean, and so mountainous, it 
is to be expected that high winds and frequent showers should pre- 
vail ; but, from these very causes, snow does not last so long as in 
more southern latitudes. Though the climate, in general, be moist 
and variable, yet the atmosphere is purified by high and frequent 
winds ; and the inhabitants are in general healthy. Fevers, small- 
pox, &c. are seldom, if ever, spread by infection. In spring, how- 
ever, colds, inflammatory sore throats, and rheumatism, are not in- 
frequent. In summer and autumn, cases of dyspepsia and bowel- 
complaints among the lower orders are of common occurrence. 
These are supposed to arise from a sudden change of their diet, 
which in the summer consists of oatmeal, milk, &c. and after- 
wards, of potatoes. 

Hydrography. — The friths that intersect the parish are, 1^^, the 
Kyle of Durness^ which is about six miles long, and averages nearly 
one mile in breadth. Near its entrance on the west side of the 

* A monthly report is transmitted to the Board of the Lighthouse Commission- 
ers, of the ranges of the thermometer, barometer, and rain-gage. 


bay of Balnakiel, are bars and shallows, which frequently shift 
their position with north winds. This frith is little visited by ves- 
sels, either for shelter or commerce. At ebb, it appears a large 
field of sand, which is gradually accumulating from the debris of 
the Dinard and tributary streams. On its banks, may be frequently 
seen considerable numbers of seals (PhaccB vitulifUB^) and diffe- 
rent species of shell-fish. 2i2, Loch EriboUy which is about ten 
miles long, with a south-west direction, and varying from one to four 
miles in breadth. Its waters are of a depth varying' from fifteen to 
sixty fathoms; and no perceptible current is felt, while its saltness 
does not materially differ from that of the ocean. Camisendunbay, 
near the ferry, is one of the best anchorages in the kingdom, and is 
pretty often resorted to by vessels unable to double Cape Wrath, 
or attempt the Pentland Frith. The tides off Cape Wrath, Farout, 
and Whiten Head aiO0 very strong — running about ten miles an hour. 

Springs, — As might be anticipated in such a mountainous 
country, and where such quantities of rain fall, the springs are in- 
numerable. There are several chalybeates ; and those which give 
a reddish colouring to the gravelly banks are reckoned salubrious by 
the natives. 

Lakes are also abundant, varying from a few hundred yards to 
six miles in extent. Of these. Loch Hope is the largest, being six 
miles long, by one half mile broad. Its mean depth does not exceed six 
fathoms. Its upper end is gradually filling up by the alluvial deposits 
of Strathmore water ; and its banks occasionally diversified by a few 
tufts of birch. Loch Borley and Loch Craspul^ near the manse, 
are beautiful lakes ; both of which are supplied by subterraneous 
streams through the limestone rocks in the neighbourhood. The 
former is one mile long, and has a small green isle 200 yards long. 
It abounds in char^ which spawn in October, and are seldom or 
ever caught by the fly. Loch Craspul is half a mile long, and abounds 
with excellent trout, which do not spawn till January. There are se- 
veral other lakes around the above and in the interior, — all abound- 
ing in trout, which appear reddish, dark, or silvery, according to the 
clearness of the water. Among these, the largest are Dinardy the 
source of the river Kescaig^ and Ishour in the Parf or western 
division. Marl has been found at Loch Borley^ but has not been 
applied to any extent for the purpose of manure. 

Rivers* — The only rivers deserving notice are the Hope and the 
Dinard, The former is merely a continuation of the Strathmore 
Water, which has its source from GlengoUie and the contiguous 


mountains, and empties itself about three miles from the mouth of 
Loch EriboUy — running a distance of fifteen miles. The latter has 
its rise from Loch Dinard, and empties itself at the head of the Kyle 
of Durness, — running a distance of ten miles. Both these rivers are 
very rapid, especially when swelled by their tributary streams. In 
both, the cruives are shut in March ; but very few salmon are found 
till summer, owing, it is supposed, to the coldness of the snow 
water descending from the higher mountain streams. Salmon are, 
also in small quantities, found to ascend the Sandwood water from 
the Atlantic, Dal water from Balnakiel Bay, and Strathbeg water, 
at the head of Loch Eriboll. All these are tolerably good ang- 
ling rivers, especially for trout, during the months of May and 
June. During heavy rains, the mountain streams present to the 
eye some fine cascades, the most noted of which are at Altnacailish 
in Strathmore, and at Benspionnadh on the north-west side. 

Geology. — There are few parishes in Scotland that furnish such 
a rich field to the speculations of the geologist — both from its ex- 
tent and the variety of its formations. These have been examined 
by Professor Jameson, Professor Sedgwick, and Dr M'CuUoch. 
Following the geographical divisions of the parish we find the high 
and precipitous rocks on either side of Cape Wrath, chiefly sand- 
stone and gneiss, with numerous veins of granite and felspar. The 
central mountain of Fasbheinn is gneiss ; but all the other moun- 
tains are chiefly of the red sandstone formation, and puddingstone, 
—the strata of which are horizontal. At Handa Island, and Store 
in Assynt, the same formation of sandstone appears. 

In the second or Durness division, the mountains are all com- 
posed of quartz, gneiss, and mica-slate, with occasional veins of por- 
phyry and granite. The dip of the strata is chiefly north-east. 
The higher mountains present their steeper and bolder fronts to 
the west and north-west,— with the exception only of the Farout 
Head, composed of dark gray slate. The greater part of the 
low lands of Durness from the Kyle to Smo, consists of an im- 
mense triangular bed of primitive limestone, of about fifteen square 
miles, and of unknown depth. It is of difierent colours— gray, blue, 
and pale white. These often alternate with each other, and are 
of various depths, often horizontal, but generally inclining to the 
north and east The fissures almost always cut the strata at right 
angles, and frequently consist of thin veins of carbonate of lime, 
pure, white, and crystallized. This bed at its southern angle dis- 
appears under the Foinnebhinn and Meall Horn Mountains, and 


is seen minutely in the adjoining parish of Edderachillis at Loch- 
more and Glencul, and to an extent of several miles in the parish 
of Assynt, where it appears under the same general character and 
of the same formation. 

In the third or Westmoin district, a section of this bed also ap- 
pears, to the extent of about five miles in length by half a mile in 
average breadth. It is separated from Durness by Loch Eriboll, 
the quartz mountain range of Ceannabinn, and Benspionadh. The 
mountains of Hope and Strathmore are quartz and gray slate, 
either horizontally stratified, or with a small inclination to the east 
and north. The limestone caves present fine specimens of stalac- 
tites and stalagmites, and some of the lakes in the limestone for- 
mation abound in marl. Immense circular blocks of granite are 
frequently resting upon the limestone rocks : * and pieces of por^ 
phyry have been discovered near Bispond, which are easily cut into 

Soil. — Over the limestone, the soil is chiefly clay, of various 
depth, and yielding rich pasturage. The alluvial deposits carried 
down by the mountain streams make the straths equally fertile. 
But with these exceptions, the whole soil of the parish is a con- 
tinuous surface of peat moss, varying from a few inches to twelve 
feet in depth, — below which there are deep strata of clay or gravel. 

Zoology, — The high mountains in the interior, commonly called 
the " Forest" — (a leafless one !) abound in red-deer {Cervus ele- 
phas.) The roe {Cervus capreolus) is occasionally seen at Ben 
Hope. Foxes (Canis vulpes^) notwithstanding the high premiums 
given, are numerous and difficult to extirpate. Badgers {Ursus 
meles) are almost extinct Wild cats {Felis catusferus) are pret- 
ty numerous. Otters (Mustela Intra) are found in the rivers. 
Hares common (Lepus timidus^) and alpine {L. variabilis^) are 
seen, the latter more numerous ; also rabbits {L. cuniculus;) pole- 
cats, ferrets, and weasels (MustelcB^) Moles (Talpa Europea) are 
rare, and only found in one district of the parish, on the eastern 
bank of Loch Hope. Rats {M, raitus) are of late immigration. 

Birds. — Among the land fowls, the following are the principal : 
Hawks {Falco) of difierent kinds. Owls, both gray and brown, 
with ears resembling horns. The Royal (Julvus^) and fishing (Aa- 
licetuSf) eagle. A colony of rooks (C. frugilegiLs) may be seen in 
September for a few weeks, and almost all the small birds common 

* From one of these oo the glebe, the monument erected in the church -yard to 
the memory of Rob. Donn, was formed. 


to the latitude; sucb as the starling (Stumtis^) thrush {Turdus^) 
wagtail {MotcudUa alba,) lark (Alatidaarvensis,) green linnet (Loxia 
Moris,) swallow {Hirundo,) blackbird thrush, {T, merula,) cuckoo 
{Cuculus canorus,) kingsfisher {Alcedo ispida,) wild pigeon {Co- 
lumba JEnas,) black-cock {Tetrao tetrix,) ptarmigan (T. lagopiis,) 
moorfowl (Tl Scoticus,) partridge (T.perdix,) plover (CAarocfni^,) 


Among the water-fowls are gulls (Larus ridihundus, and L, 
marinus ;) wild goose {Anser,) swan (A.cyffnus,) duck (A.boschas,) 
teal {A, crecca,) solan-goose (Pelecanus Bassanus,) puiBn (Aka 
arctica,) auk {A, tor da,) and great auk {A, impennis,) crane 

Fishes. — Skate {Raice,) piked dog-fish (S. acanthius,) eel {Mu- 
rena anguilla,) conger, or sea eel, (M. conger,) cod {G.morrhua,) 
haddock (G. JEgleJimis,) coal-fish (G. carbonaritis,) whiting (G. 
merlangus,) ling (G. molva,) mackarel (Scomber,) turbot (Pleuro- 
nectes hippoglossus,) sole (P.solea,) flounder (P.Jlesus et punctatus,) 
salmon (Salmo,) trout (S. trutta etfario,) char (S. alpinus.) 

The shell-fish are: — Oysters (O. edulis,) cockles (C edule,) 
mussels (M. edulis,) &c. ; univalves of different kinds, as well as 
lobsters and crabs, are very numerous. The sands of Balnakiel 
present beautiful specimens of conchology. 

Reptiles, Sfc. — Among the reptiles are : the viper {Coluber berus,) 
adder {Anguis eryx,) lizards (Lacerta,) frogs (Bona,) toads {Bujb.) 
Among the various species of insects and flies, the most peculiar 
and numerous are gnats, provincially called midges; these are 
so annoying during the months of August and September in calm 
warm and moist weather, that they interrupt all labour without 

jBotowy.*— The vegetation of this parish is materially affected 
by its latitude, the vicinity of the sea, its position towards the wes- 
tern shore, its diversity of surface, and its soil. On the northern 
confines of Britain, the ordinary law by which the geographical 
distribution of plants in regard of latitude is regulated, brings to 
very moderate elevations plants which, in the southern parts of the 
Grampians, are found only on the ridges, and which are not pro- 
duced at all in the south of Scotland, for want of a sufficient ele- 
vation to give the Alpine climate. In the parish of Durness, how- 
ever, the descent of Alpine vegetation is greatly increased by its 

* This article was kindly communicated by Dr Graham, Professor of Botany in 
the University of Edinburgh. 



western position. Several plants which, to the eastward in the same 
latitude, grow upon the sides of the mountains, grow here on the 

On the top of the cliff overhanging the sea at Cape Wrath, we 
have Salix herbacea and Silene acatdis; and near Ke<^dale we have 
JTutKctrum alpinum^ close to the high water mark* Even a very 
few miles off, these plants have disappeared from the shore, and 
are met with only on the mountains, at a height increasing as we 
proceed eastward. On the other hand, the neighbourhood of the 
sea secures that mild temperature during winter, which enables less 
hardy plants to thrive ; or otherwise fits the fields of Durness for 
the growth of species which require a maritime climate. This is 
true with respect to many plants which appear 'in the pastures. 
The Primula Scotica abounds here, and in many places near the 
north shore of Scotland, but it has not been observed anywhere 
upon the mountains either to the eastward or southward. 

The soil in the parish is various ; but perhaps the only kind 
which, apart from the degree of moisture, seems to exert a sen- 
sible influence ih modifying the natural productions, is that form- 
ed over limestone, which abounds in the inunediate vicinity of 
the manse, and crops out in many places. It is no doubt on 
account of this that Dryas octopetala is so profuse in Durness. 
To the eastward and in the south, it is met with on the moun- 
tains, and on various rocks, but here it seems confined to the lime- 
stone, and is most abundant at the level of the sea. Equally cir- 
cumscribed, and on the same rock, is Epipactis latifolia^ and per- 
haps Draba incana extends no farther. Centaurea scabiosa is abun- 
dant in the fields around, and very seldom with white flowers. All 
these, except the last, are likewise found on limestone inAssynt, but 
rarely, if at all, in the intervening district, where limestone does 
not exist. A great part of the flat land towards Cape Wrath is 
bog, wholly different from the close fine turf which forms the sur- 
face near the manse. It produces in abundance the ordinary coarse 
herbage which is found to cover wet ground throughout the coun- 
try, as the various common species of Juncus^ Carex and Eriopho^ 
runiy while on the neighbouring drier banks we have Nardus stric- 
ta^ and the other grasses which generally grow along with it. These 
form very productive sheep pasture, and support a very excellent 
stock. In the bogs, there is abundance of Pinguicula Lusitanicay 
and of Drosera Anglica. Upon the shores of Sandwood and of 


Uurndtf»i we Imve a protwnon of Gentiana amarella and Thalictrum 
minus, Elyrnui arenarius and Juneus BaUiciu are met with in both 
|)ltteeS| the latter particularly abundant to the north of the house 
of Keoldalo. 

The mountain tops are generally dry and stony, and nothing has 
hitherto boen observed upon them but such Alpine plants as are 
found on many other mountain ranges in Scotland, except Luzvla 
«iiVMii/ii« Analm procumbens and Arbutus alpina abound chiefly on 
tht> U)W Mhouldara. Luzula arcuaia has been found only in three 
tiUtiivi^n ill liritain, the summit of the mountains at the source of 
\\w IHhh Ken More in Assynt, and Foinnbheinn in this parish; 
Hud nUuvg \^'ilh it, on the two last mountains, Aparffia alpina. 
{\\ KvaunUht^iuu theiv i:^ great abundance of Arabis pstrcecu It is 
Hium^^' th^ u)ouutaiu3^ in this and the adjoining parishes, forming 
tho lUH'th^^^'il of Scotland, that botanists expect to discover several 
K^ thi> yi^nU iH>iumon to the north of Europe and America, but 
which have not vet been added to the British Flora. 

With the exception of a few acres of Birch copse on the banks of 
Uooh Hope, and a few birch, poplar, and holly trees in the clefts of 
rocks and glens, the parish maybe said to be quite destitute of wood. 
In low and sheltered situations, however, the mosses retain tlie roots 
of fir, birch, willow, &c, and decayed trunks of from thirty to fifty 
feet in length are occasionally dug from the mosses. In sheltered 
situations, and where the soil is open and dry, there is little doubt 
but forest and fruit trees might grow, from the few specimens tried 
at Eriboll. Culinary vegetables thrive well. Notwithstanding the 
great quantities of rain in harvest, the crops are ripe, and secured 
at least three weeks earlier than in the neighbouring county of 
Caithness, — which may be occasioned by the difierence of soil, as 
well as the shelter, and the radiation of heat from the adjacent 
rocks and vallies. With the exception of six acres of winter sown 
wheat, tried for the first time at Balnakiel, the whole of the crops 
were cut and secured before the 2dd September 1833. 

II. — Civil History. 
It cannot be expected, that the annals of a parish so remote and 

so thinly inhabited, should at any time have excited much pub- 
lic interest Some accounts of the local conflicts of the clans Mac- 
kay, Gordon, and Sutherland, may be seen in Sir Robert Gordon's 
History of the Sutherland family, and Mackay's History of the 
Mackays. — A correct survey was taken of the coast in 1827 by or- 


der of the Commissioners for the Northern Lights : and a map of the 
parish on a large scale, by Mr Burnet, land-surveyor, is preparing 
for publication, under the patronage of the Duke of Sutherland, 
who is now sole proprietor. 

Eminent Men. — Among the most eminent characters who were 
natives of this parish are the following : — 1^ General Mackay, 
who distinguished himself in the civil wars in the reign of King 
Charles IL His father, who was a branch of the Reay family, 
resided for some titne in Borley, but afterwards had his prin- 
cipal residence at Scowrie, in Edderachillis. 2if, Robert Donn 
or Calder, or, as he is sometimes called, Mackay, the celebrat- 
ed Reay country bard, was also a native of the parish. His 
lyrics, satires, and songs, are much admired and sung by the na- 
tives, and have rendered our mountains and glens classic ground. 
A volume of these was published in 1829 by Dr Mackay of Dunoon ; 
to which is prefixed a memoir of his life. 

Parochial Register. — The earliest date of the parochial register 
is 4th November 1764. It does not contain any register of deaths. 

Antiquities. — Among these, the first that claim attention are 
the circular Duns, which appear to have been very numerous 
in the Highlands. The ruins of ten of these Duns are to be 
seen in this parish. They appear to have been the residences 
of some native chieftain ; they are often built in low and fer- 
tile spots, and, in some places, they are surrounded by seve- 
ral circles of from 12 to 20 feet diameter, which in all pro- 
bability have been the foundations of the circular booths of the 
chieftain's dependents. The form of these Duns is the simplest 
mode of structure that would occur to a rude people. There 
is a tradition among the natives, that they were built to defend the 
inmates from the incursions of the wolves. The only remains 
from which we can judge of the form and structure of these Duns 
are — a segment of one in Strathmore, about sixteen feet high, near 
the south base of Ben Hope. It is called " ZWn DomigilU** t. e. 
Domadilla's Tower. The tradition is, that it was built by the 
Scottish king of that name, and used as a hunting residence. The 
outer circumference is about fifty paces in extent, and consists of 
two concentric walls, connected by large flags, which served the pur- 
pose of strengthening each other, and forming a pathway to the top. 
The triangular stone which forms the lintel is still seen in the 
building. The slaty stones of which it is built, bear no marks of 


having been shaped by tools, the acute angle being always upper- 

There are also some subterraneous buildings, called ^^ Leabidh 
fholaichj^ 1. e. hiding-places : one of these, lately discovered at the 
west side of Loch EriboU Ferry, is about 40 feet long, 6 feet 
high, and about 6 feet wide, built of dry stone, and covered over 
by flags ; the descent is by regular steps, and the entrance is co- 
vered by a flag. It is still in good preservation. — There are seve- 
ral large stones placed on end, either in a circular or elliptical form, 
which appear to have been places of sepulture ; but no traces of 
writing have been seen on any of these. — Tumuli, and heaps of 
stones, called " cairns," are of frequent occurrence. In one of 
these, called ^^ Cnoc na cncimham^^ t. e. the hill of bones, near 
Keoldale, a small brass elliptical cockade was found two years ago, 
and a small polished bone, supposed to be used for fastening the 
military plaid. The tradition is, that it contains the remains of 
those who fell in battle. — Heads of arrows are occasionally found 
in the mosses ; they are from two to thr4e inches long, formed of 
a brown, red, or whitish flint-like stone, f 

Buildings. — There is a pretty large mansion-house at Balnakiel, 
where some of the Lords of Reay occasionally resided. It was 
built about ninety years ago. Another building of importance is 
the Light-house at Cape Wrath, the tower of which is fifty feet 
high. The building is altogether 350 feet above the level of the 
sea. It was built in 1827 of granite found at the Cape. Previ- 
ous to its erection, seldom a winter passed without one or more 
wrecks; but these are now of rare occurrence. At Rispond 
there is a good dwelling-house, and a pretty extensive range of 
houses and sheds for the salmon-boiling and herring-fishing. There 
is also a pier for sloops of ordinary size to load their cargoes. — The 
houses of the tacksmen merit no particular notice. Those of the 
small tenants and cottars are all built of turf or dry stone, plaster- 
ed on the inside with clay, with the exception of two or three in 
some hamlets whose western gable has a vent and chimney-stalk. 

* Se« Antiquities and Scenery in Scotland by Rev. Charles Cordiner of Banff, 
and Agricultural Survey of the County of Sutherland, 1806, Appendix. 

f The noted Donald M* Leod, a/ta« Mac Mhorchie-ic-eoin-mhoir, who was the 
Rob Hoy of the North, always carried his bow and arrows, either to the field or the 
forest. He died in 1623. His figure, represented in relief on the gravestone over 
his vault in the church of Durness, exhibits him with his bow and arrow. A draw- 
ing of this vault, and the gravestone and inscription, was lately executed by order of 
the Duke of Sutherland. — For further particulars of the history and character of this 
freebooter, see former Statistical Account of the Parish of Edderachillis, and Mac- 
kay's History of the Mackays. 


Several neat eottages, howeyer^ boilt with lime or clay, are com- 
menced in those hamlets where the lots are divided. 

IIL — Population. 
By a census taken in 1724, the population did not exceed 1000 

souls. In 1790 the population was 1182. In the Durness, or 
second district of the parish, there has been an increase of nearly 50 
per cent since 1815 ; but in the third or eastern district, Eriboll, 
the population has diminished since 1815 from 517 to 220. The 
decrease has been owing to the whole district having been con- 
verted into two extensive sheep-farms. The increase in the Dur- 
ness, or second division, has been owing to the establishment of 
the herring fishery, and the subdivision of lots in the different ham- 
lets. In 1815 from thirty to forty fEunilies emigrated to America. 

Population in 1801, - 1206 

1811, - 1155 

1821, - 1004 

1831, . 1153 

The average of marriages, for Uie last 7 years, is - - . 8 

of baptisms, .... S9^ 

Total number of persons 1st January 1834, - - - 1180 

Of these, there are under 15 years of age, - 448 

from 15 to 30, - - . 343 

from 30 to 50, - - - 185 

from 50 to 70, - - 164 

above 70, ... 40 

- UflO 

Number of bachelors and widowers above 50, - - - 13 

Unmarried women above 50, (excluding widows,) - - 44 

Average number of children in each family, . . . 3^ 

Number of families in the parish, .... 206 

chiefly employed in agriculture, - - - 123 

in trade, manufactiu'cs, or handicraft, 13 

Insane persons, ... . - 2 

Fatuous, .... - - 10 

Blind, .... . . 4 

Deaf and dumb, ... . - 3 

Clans. — The principal clans in the parish are, those of M'Kay, 
Sutherland, Campbell, Morrison, and Gunn ; the two former ge- 
nerally distinguished by fair hair and blue eyes, — the Campbells and 
Gunns, by dark eyes and dark complexion. 

Character^ Sfc, of the People. — The natives are generally live- 
ly in their dispositions, social in their habits, and when engag- 
ed in labour, either at sea or on land, endure a good deal of fatigue. 
There are few artisans among them : and, having little or nothing 
to do in the winter months, many of them are in the habit of vi- 
siting and spending the evenings in each other's houses in the dif- 
ferent hamlets, hearing the news of the country, repeating the 
songs of their native bard, or listening to the legendary tales of 
some venerable Senachie, 


With the exception of eight families from the south of Scotland, 
all the natives speak Gaelic Though a considerable proportion 
* of the young can speak English, yet very few are able to follow out 
or understand an English sermon. Indeed, even those who speak 
and understand the English well, always prefer the Gaelic ser- 
vices. Whether this predilection arises from early associations, 
the influence of habit, or the greater ease, familiarity, and simpli- 
city in the style of the speakers, they think themselves more edi- 
fied by discourses in that tongue. It cannot be said, however, that 
the Gaelic language is spoken with such emphasisr and purity in 
this country as in some parts of the western Highlands; and, though 
it has been *a good deal corrupted by the younger people who now 
speak English, it has not lost much ground. 

The principle amusements are — playing at the ball and shinty on 
the fine sands of Balnakiel. The whole population turns out on 
old Christmas and new-year's day, and even old men of seventy are 
to be seen mingling in the crowd, remaining till night puts an end to 
the contest Indeed, the inhabitants of this parish have always been 
noted for the enthusiasm with which they engaged in these sports. 
To koop up the tone of action, they retire in the evening, and 
uiin^lo iu tlie dance to the music of the bagpipe, regardless of the 
hniij*o>* ami scars of the contest. Of this sport, Dr M'Leod of 
( ^uupnio luiH ^ivon a very humorous and graphical description in 
\\U *• 7K4iA</<iiiv Gaiilhleaeh.** Hallow-e'en eve is also a festive 
{\k\) \\\ llio ouloudur, hut is not kept with such enthusiasm as for- 
UUM'I>« S\»jH^iNtitious observances, belief in witches, and other en- 
v^luumuouls »uv f^mduully wearing away, — though even a grave el- 
^Um' »uh> oiHHtHioimUy bo met witli, who will quote scripture, and re- 
lutt) many traditionary stories, as evidences of his faith. 

A»i to tlio habits of the people, — it cannot be said that they are 
ranmrkable for cleanliness: the huts they occupy, — the smoke 
arising from the fire in the centre of the house, and forming a ca- 
nopy over them, — and the cattle entering by the same door with 
the inmates, — are not favourable to personal cleanliness. The 
change of dress within the last twenty or thirty years has been very 
marked, both with males and females. Instead of the tartan or kelt 
coat and trowsers, spun and dyed at home, when each family had 
their own wool, hardly any thing is to be seen on the young but the 
fustian jacket and trowsers, or the lighter tartan of the shops, and 
here and there the blue and fancy cloths of Leeds. The blue 


mantle and the well-spun blue gown of the fair sex is superseded 
by the prints and Merinos of modem times. The head is in many 
cases adorned or covered by a gauze or muslin cap, and now ana 
then by a straw-bonnet. Umbrellas are more numerous tharf great- 
coats or mantles. It is questionable whether, with these changes, 
the morals or comforts of the people have been improved. 

It could not be expected that a people who had led chiefly a pas- 
toral life were to be soon reconciled to the change which placed them 
in crowded hamlets upon the shore. The manufacture of kelp^ 
herring-fishing, road -making, and other occasional sources of in^ 
dustry during the summer and harvest, have, however, called out 
the latent industry of the young; but, as there has been, of late 
years, no encouragement to enter the army, and as they have no 
opportunities of learning trades at home, they are tempted to maiv 
ry too young; they then reside for some years with their parents, 
and divide the lot of two or three acres, chiefly reclaimed from moor, 
at the very time it promised to support the family with bread and 
potatoes. Thus, the wants of a new and rising family are to be pro-> 
vided for, and poverty and a high rate of population are kept up. 

The habits of dram-drinking, acquired by both sexes in their an- 
nual migrations to Caithness, and in the course of their mixing to- 
gether in crowded lodgings there, have tended to deteriorate the mo- 
rals of the people considerably. Their attendance on religious ordi- 
nances, however, is pretty regular ; and in most cases, the evening 
and morning devotions of the family are offered up. On the Sabbath 
evenings, the Shorter Catechism is taught ; or they congregate to- 
gether in some commodious house in the township, to repeat the 
Shorter Catechism and read the Scriptures. These meetings are 
always commenced and concluded by prayer and praise, and often 
tend to spread a moral and religious influence over the hamlet 
Smuggling, foreign and domestic, is now totally suppressed. 

IV. — Industry. 
Agriculturt and Rural Economy. — The whole of this parish, 

(with the exception of about one«twentieth part,) has been converted 

into four extensive sheep-walks, yielding on an average L. 500 

each of rent. From the irregular surface, and small patches in 

cultivation, it is impossible, without measurement, to ascertain the 

exact number of acres. The following is an approximation :-^ 



Imperial acres. 

1. Balnakiel farm and herds, .... 100 

2. Keoldale, do. ----- GO 

3. EriboU do. and subtenants, - - 80 

4. Ben Hope do. for herds, ... 6 

Glebe, 12 

120 small tenants and cottars, with 2 acres each, on an average, 240 

Total, 498 

Along the shores, straths, and glens under sheep, a considerable 
proportion of the land is arable, — ^perhaps about 300 acres. Of 
good pasture capable of being brought into cultivation by spade 
husbandry, there are 1000 acres at least The amount might be 
made equal to what is already in cultivation by the tenants and cot- 
tars, and capable of supporting three times the present popula- 
tion, — even though the whole of the mountain pasture and some of 
the straths and shores should be left under sheep. 

Rent ofljond. — The average rent of arable land per acre is from 
20s. to dOs.; but to all arable land there is attached a right of pas- 
ture on a conunon hill. The estimated value of grazing for sheep 
or wedders is about 2s. 6d. each on the great sheep-farms. Cows 
are pastured on rich meadows at L.d per annum. Including stock 
farms, kelp, and salmon fishery, the rental of the parish is about 
L. 2550. 

Wages. — Day labourers receive Is. 6d. per day; artisans, from 2s. 
to 3s.; farm-servants L. 6 per annum, 7 bolls meal, and 20 barrels 
potatoes, and one cow's grass ; farm or domestic female servants, 
L. 3 per annum and board. 

Breeds of Lwe-Stock. — The only breed of sheep is the Cheviot 
or white-faced, with the exception of about 300 cross or black- 
faced, kept by small tenants and cottars on the common grazing. 
To the improvement of the former very great attention is paid — 
botli wool and carcase fetching average prices at market. The 
principal breed of black-cattle is the Highland, reared by small te- 
nants. TIio few milch cows on the sheep-walks are chiefly Ayr- 
shire. With the exception of six pair of Clydesdale horses 
kept for husbandry by the sheep-farmers, all the rest of the horses 
are small Highland ponies. 

Ilmhandry. — Several acres of waste or marshy land have been 
druinod at Balnakiel, but are laid out in pasture. The old 
nuxli^ of reclaiming waste land was by making Ictzy beds^ u e. by 
])0<*ling one part of the ground and laying it over another of equal 
Hpac(\ Trenching was never used, but a better and more econo- 


mical system is now employed. The runrig system is wearing out, 
and every township is in the course of being lotted out in regu- 
lar divisions, and cottages are building on each lot. " Though the 
expense and labour of building these be great to the small tenants, 
especially in a country where masons and carpenters must be 
brought from other places, yet they submit to the charge, though 
no leases are given, and have every confidence, that, under the li- 
beral and enlightened management of the family of Sutherland, 
they will be furnished with new sources of industry. 

The sheep-farmers have leases of nineteen years; and all of 
them have lately made considerable improvements in diking and 
surface draining. 

Fisheries, — Herring, — The principal fisheries are the herring, 
salmon, and lobster. The early herring fishing commences in June. 
At this season, the fish are so rich that it is difficult to cure them, and 
they are sent oflF weekly to market. The late fishing commences 
about the middle of July and continues till September. It was 
only of late that the out sea fishing commenced on this coast. 
And even yet, it hardly remunerates those engaged in it. A 
smaller but superior species of herring is found occasionally in 
Loch Eriboll ; but it is chiefly used for home consumption. Ten 
boats are employed at Rispond : they are each manned by four men 
and a boy, and cost each L. 36. 

Lobster Fishing, — The lobster fishing commences in May 
and is carried on with little intermission till August. Six boats 
of fourteen feet keel were employed last season, each boat having 
two men, and being furnished with twenty or more nets inclosed 
in circular iron cylindrical hoops or rings of two and a-half feet 
diameter ; a piece of herring or gray fish being tied in the centre 
of the mesh for bait. The nets are cast into the sea within a few 
yards of the shore by one of the men, while the other rows for- 
ward ; and they are raised in about an hour after. This is conti- 
nued from sunset to sunrise. When a lobster is cauglTt, the large 
claws are fastened together by a strong packing thread, — otherwise, 
by the muscular strength of their claws, they would soon destroy 
each other. When thus secured, they are conveyed in the morn- 
ing to the perforated floating chest, until they are called for week- 
ly by the welled smacks. 

Cod and Ling Fishing, — Cod and ling, though abundant on the 
coast, have not been much fished by the natives. 

Salmon Fishing. — The only rivers in which salmon are caught 


are the Hope and Dinard ; on both of these there are cruives and 
coble fishing- The fishuig commences in the end of March and 
ceases in August The spawning months are October and Novem- 
ber. The following table shows the weight of salmon and grilse 
caught during the last two years. 

lbs. Salmon. lU. GrilM. Riven. 

1832, 624 1946 > . jji^^^^ 

1883, 181 887} 

1882, 1488 4650 i . Hope. 

1^ 2166 7895 f "*^- 

Several of the larger bums or streams have salmon but, from 
their distance and the diflSculty of access, fishing in these would 
not remunerate the expense. * 

Produce. — The following is the average gross amount of raw 
produce raised in the parish, as nearly as can be ascertained, viz. 

900bolLiofgrainofallkindi,atl88. - - - L.800 

20 acres turnip at L. 5, iSX n S 

1000 bolls potatoes at 8s., - - - - 222 n n 

1 1000 stones hay, cultivated and meadow, ... a7U U U 

Cattle sold by small tenants, - - - 100 

Sheep sold by stock Ikrmers, being the average for the last six years, viz. 
1830 ewes at lis., - - - L. 1006 

2000weddersatL. 1, - - - 2000 

8210 stones wool, at ISs., - - - 2407 


500 barrels herring atL.1, - -- - - 50000 

fi842 lobsters at dd., 73 

2346 lbs. salmon at 5d., - - r L. 47 

8782 lbs grilse at 4d., - - - 146 


40 tons kelp at L. 3, - - - - 120 

MiaoolUmeous produce, - - - - 27 


N. B. — It must be observed, that meal is imported to the pa- 
rish to the average amount of 300 bolls annually. 

Kelp manttfacture, — The only manufacture worthy of notice is 
the kelp. It commences in June, and in favourable seasons is fi- 
nished early in July. It is cut every alternate year, spread out on 
the shores, and when nearly dried is put up in heaps and burnt in 

^* It is the universal belief of the oldest and most experienced fishermen acquainted 
with different waters, that salmon never deposit their spawn except in rivers ; that 
they universally and instinctively frequent the rivers on which they were spawned ; 
that, however numerous the fish in traversing the shores, and when entering the es- 
tuary or frith, each turns to that direction where the river in which it was spawned 
empties itself. Where a stranger can hardly discern any difference, a practued eye 
will single out the fish of different rivers from each other, and view them almost as 
varieties of the same species. It is true, that large shoals of salmon belonging to 
different rivers, on their return from the ocean, often congregate at estuaries, and are 
cauglit in the net ; but the stranger fish, on tasting the water, and entering fiiirly 
into the channel of the river, soon returns, not finding the velocity, temperature, co- 
lour, or taste of the water congenial to its habits. 


long narrow kilns of loose stones of 2 feet wide, and 13 or 16 feet 
long ; when thoroughly melted and well-wrought» it is, after cool- 
ing, broken up to heaps, and covered with turf till it is shi|^ped« 

Navigation. — There are three small sloops at Rispond, of the 
respective tonnage of 25, 37, and 51. These are managed by ten 
men, and are principally employed in the coasting trade. One of 
them goes occasionally to Hamburgh with early herrings. 

V. — Parochial Economt. 

Means of Communication. — Thurso is the nearest market-town, 
65 miles distant There are no villages, the population all resid- 
ing in hamlets along the shores, containing from 4 or 5 to 20 fami- 
lies. The means of communication have been much improved dur- 
ing the last three years, by the liberality of the late Duke of Suther- 
land. Formerly, the post-office was at Bonar Bridge, a distance of 
62 miles, to which there was a runner sent once a-week at the 
sole expense of a few subscribers. There is now a post-office 
twice a-week to Tongue. The days of dispatch are Monday and 
Thursday ; of arrival, Tuesday and Friday, — to suit the Golspie 
mail, which crosses the interior to Tongue every Monday and 
Thursday. There is a weekly runner to Scowrie. There is also 
a monthly carrier to Tain ; but almost all imports and exports are 
by sea. 

The roads are, Ist, a road from the Kyle of Durness to Cape 
Wrath, executed by the Light-house Commissioners in 1828, 11 
miles in length ; 2^ from Eriboll by Strathmore, till its junction 
with the Tongue road to the south, 19 miles; 3J, the main line 
leading from west to east, — 34 miles round by Loch Eriboll, or, 
by crossing the ferry, 24 miles. With the exception of 12 miles, 
commenced ten years ago by statute-labour, these roads were com- 
pleted by the late Duke of Sutherland, and have completely open- 
ed up the country to new sources of industry, and the gratification 
of the traveller, and the speculations of the capitalist There is 
an excellent bridge over the Dinard, and a chain-boat over the 

The harbours are, Loch Eriboll, Rispond, and Port Our, at 
the termination of the Cape Wrath road, and Smo ; the last only 
for boats.. At Rispond, there is a basin and pier, and rings fasten- 
ed to the rocks in the bay ; but this is not reckoned very safe in 
north-east gales and spring, tides. Loch Eriboll, in the bay, 
where there is a church, is reckoned a very safe anchorage. A slip 
for boats has been also made at Clashcamach, three miles east of 


the cape, where the light-house yacht lands the oil and necessa- 
ries for the light-house ; but is seldom attempted in^ stormy wea- 
ther with northerly winds. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The church is situated within half a mile 
of the manse, at Balnakiel Bay. About three-fourths of the po- 
pulation, or all within six miles, attend. Its distance from the ex- 
tremity to the south-east is 26 miles, and from the western extre- 
mity 12 miles. It was built in 1619, and the aisle added in 1692; 
it has no galleries, and contains 300 sittings, which are all free. It 
stands much in need of repair and enlargement The practice of 
burying within the walls has been discontinued for nearly a cen- 
tury. The manse was rebuilt in 1830, and is commodious. The 
glebe, including its hill grazings and pertinents, may be worth L.30 
per annum. The stipend is L. 150, and is on the list of small liv- 
ings augmented by act of Parliament in 1812. 

In the Eriboll district, there is sermon preached every alternate 
Sabbath ; it is connected with the Milness district of the parish of 
Tongue, twelve miles distant. The missionary here is supported 
solely by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, on a sa- 
lary of L. 50. There are no Dissenters or Roman Catholics. The 
sacrament is dispensed once a-year, in summer. The number of 
communicants is 70 ; but, on such occasions, tokens to the amount 
of 150 are distributed to communicants who attend from neigh- 
bouring parishes. Collections in aid of religious and charitable 
institutions are occasionally made, — the average annual amount of 
which may be L. 3. 

The schools in the parish are, parochial, 1 ; Assembly, 1 ; sub- 
scription, 2 1 in which the ordinary elementary branches are taught. 
The salary of the parochial schoolmaster is the minimum, or L.24: 
of the General Assembly's L. 20. The school-fees in either of these 
do not exceed L. 4 per annum. The former has not the legal ac- 
commodations ; those of the latter are new and sufficient The 
subscription schools are chiefly taught during the winter. In some 
remote hamlets and families, boys are hired during the winter 
months to teach, at the rate of 20s. per month, and board. A con- 
siderable number of cottars and poor tenants, who have access to 
the parochial school, have not of late years been much alive to the 
benefits of education, — which may arise from their poverty, or want 
of confidence in the ability and diligence of a teacher so indiffe- 
rently remunerated. 

The number of persons betwixt 6 and 15 who cannot read or 


write is 90; of those upwards of ]5, is 216. It must be borne 
in mind, however, that the majority of those not included in this 
calculation cannot write. It is to be hoped that the district where 
the Assembly school is situated will, ere long, derive considerable 
benefit from the school, both in a moral and intellectual point of 

Poor and Parochial Funds. — The number of poor receiving pa- 
rochial aid is 45, — in sums of from ds. to 8s. or 10s. each. The 
annual amount of contributions for their relief does not exceed 
L. 20, viz. church weekly contributions, L. 12, with the interest of 
a legacy, I^. 2, and alms, L. 6. It must be noticed, however, 
that in this, as well as in other Highland parishes, where the cir- 
culating medium is very scarce, the poor are regularly furnish- 
ed with meal, fleeces, clothes, &c. in value at least equal to the 
sums of money annually divided by the kirk-session. It is to be 
regretted that, of late, the poor do not consider it degrading to be 
on the roll of the session funds. There are no assessments for 
the poor, or charitable institutions ; yet, when extraordinary calls 
are made, the inhabitants have always manifested a commendable 

Inns. — There are three inns, or rather houses licensed to retail 
whisky. But hitherto, travellers have been in most cases obliged 
to draw on the hospitality of the inhabitants. Comfortable inns 
and stabling are, however, now in progress. 

Miscellaneous Observations. 

The most important change since the last Statistical Ac- 
count has been the introduction of sheep-farming, which commen- 
ced about thirty years ago, and has been extended since. Though 
in some respects this may have augmented the revenue of the pro- 
prietor, and added to the commercial wealth of the nation, yet it 
is very questionable, if k has added, in the meantime, to the in- 
tellectual, moral, or religious superiority of the inhabitants. 

The division of the parish into such extensive farms has also 
suppressed almost entirely the middle classes of society, who paid 
rents of from L. 10 to L. 50, and has thereby tended to extinguish, 
in a great degree, the intelligence and laudable emulation of the 
lower classes. The former generally felt a desire of giving every 
advantage of education to their children at school, and their ex- 
ample diffused an emulation among the latter. The great sheep- 
farmers who are resident employ teachers in their families ; the 
schools are attended by the poorer classes, who are all on the same 


level, — and that, for the most part, during the winter only. Lads 
when they can handle an oar remove to Caithness, and after two 
or three years training there, getting the share of a boat on credit, 
they have arrived at the summit of their ambition, and marry. 
From the extinction of the middling classes of society, the writer 
hereof, in common with several of his brethren, has to regret the 
difficulty of finding men suitable for being ordained elders. It can- 
not be expected, however worthy the individuals may be who may be 
nominated to this office, that while poor and in some cases illite- 
rate, they can be so influential in checking immorality, stimulating 
to intellectual and religious attainments^ and suppressing supersti- 
tious and enthusiastic feeling. 

While such improvements have been made on the physical as- 
pect of the parish, by the liberality of the late Duke, and which 
there is every confidence will be continued, in making the harbours 
and creeks more accessible and available, it is hoped that the te- 
nants will gradually acquire the knowledge of artisanship, as well 
as of fishing, and thus add to the productive capabilities of the 
country, and their own individual comfort. 

September 1834. 





L — Topography and Natural History. 

Name. — The word Assyntj or AssitU, is supposed to be a Gae- 
lic oompound, ** as agus inntej** signifying out and in, evidently 
referriDg to, and descriptive of, the general outline of the parish. 
Indeed, a glance at the map of Assynt makes it extremely pro- 
bable that this derivation is correct. Other derivations have been 
given, connected with legendary traditions ; but the above seems 
die preferable one* 

Extent and Boundaries. — The parish contains 97,000 acres of 
sur&ce. Its extreme length, viz. from Cromalt to the point of 
Store, is about 36 miles. lis greatest breadth from Inverkirkig to 
Ardvar, about 18 miles. In breadth, however, it varies much. 
The parish is situated in the north-west part of the county of 
Sutherland, and is thus bounded : on the north, it is divided from 
the parish of Edderachillis, in the Reay country, by an arm of the 
sea of considerable breadth, called the Kyle, which runs betwixt 
both parishes from west to east ; on the east and south, by Kin- 
cardine, Creich, Lairg, and Lochbroom ; and on the west, by the 

Topographical Appearances. — Few districts in Scotland are more 
mountainous. The general aspect of the parish is rugged. Many 
of the mountains are of considerable altitude. The most remark- 
able of these are, Benmore, Cuniack, Suilvhen, or Sugar-loaf, 
Cannisb, &c 

The first mentioned, Benmore, or Conval, is supposed to be 
the loftiest mountain in the county — about 8230 feet above the 
level of the sea* It is seen in various directions from a conside* 
rable distance. Ptarmigan are easily got here, especially during 
snow storms. 

Cuniack has a most romantic and peculiar shape and appear- 



ance. It is a lofty ridge, extending southwards from Unapool to 
Loch Assynt, where it terminates in a minute peak. On the west 
it is lofty, precipitous, and inaccessible. On the east it is more 


Suilvhen, or Sugar-loaf, as it is called by sea-faring people, on 
account of its resemblance to that article, is southward of Lochin- 
ver, and near the boundary of Coigach, in the county of Cromarty. 
These mountains are often covered with snow. Game is found 
in these and in other districts of the parish, but by no means in 
such abundance as before the introduction of sheep-farming. 

The other hills, which are extremSly numerous, are of less 
note, being diminutive in comparison of those we have mention- 
ed. Most of these abound in springs, and the quality of water is 
excellent. The lower part of the parish, particularly the Store 
district, is not so well supplied with this essential of life. 

Caves. — There are several caves, and some natural arches, to be 
found, chiefly along the coast, and some in the interior. There 
are two which are* often visited by the tourist, within two miles of 
the parish church, and on the Stronchrubie farm. Into one of 
these, if you enter, you must proceed in a creeping posture for 
several yards, through a rugged and dark passage, when you find 
yourself suddenly introduced into a well-lighted and somewhat 
spacious apartment. There is another cave of large dimensions 
near the point of Store. 

The extent of the coast from the water of Inverkirkig, round 
the point of Store, to Ardvar, is about twenty miles. 

The shore, in general, is bold, rocky, and dangerous ; though 
in some places there is a fine sandy bottom, and safe landing. 

There are many islands, most of them, however, so small as to be 
utterly insignificant; some of these are merely bare rocks, af- 
fording neither pasture nor shelter. The largest and most va- 
luable is the island of Oldney ; its length probably a mile, its 
greatest breadth a quarter of a mile. It is attached to the sheep 
farm of that name, and is valuable as a grazing. Its insular situa- 
tion renders herding and fences unnecessary. 

Crona, a little flat island adjoining Oldney. 

Soya and Klett, two small islands on the south side of Rhu- 
store, attached to the adjoining farm of Filin. 

MeteoroIoffy.-^Theve has been no record of observations kept 
The climate is extremely wet, and high winds prevail. From 
what has already been said regarding the mountainous nature of 


ASSYNT. 107 

the district, and its proximity' to the sea, it will readily be conclud- 
ed, that we have much rainy weather — so much is this the case, 
that the harvesting of our crop, is an operation extremely precarious. 
We frequently experience severe storms of thunder and lightning, 
and two years ago, a young man was instantaneously deprived of 
life by the electric fluid. At the same time some cattle also were 
struck dead* Instances of this kind are fortunately rare. The 
climate, though severe, is upon the whole salubrious, and the 
inhabitants healthy. Consumption, however, is not unfrequent, 
and is generally induced by exposure, during the long harvest 
nights, at the herring-fishing. The prevailing wind is westerly, 
and invariably accompanied by torrents of rain. With easterly 
winds we generally have dry weather, but these are piercing and 
intensely cold. 

Hydrography. — Every hill and valley, particularly in the heights 
of the parish, is abundantly supplied with springs of water, some 
of which are very large. There is one at Achumore, ten or twelve 
feet in circumference. There are several beautiful lakes, some pf 
which deserve to be particularly noticed. 

Loch Assynf. — Its extreme length is 6} miles ; its greatest breadth 
about a mile. It is a fresh water lake, and its banks in most places 
covered with brushwood. The scenery altogether is most delight- 
ful, and cannot fail to attract the notice of the intelligent tourist- 
It abounds in trout of various kinds, and as there is no restriction 
as to angling, or setting nets, the few inhabitants in the neighbour- 
hood are able, in the proper season, to supply themselves, with an 
agreeable and wholesome addition to their daily fare. 

Loch Assynt possesses considerable attraction for the angler* 
About two years ago, it was visited by Sir William Jardine, the 
naturalist, and others, who minutely inspected the different kinds of 
trout found here and in other lochs in the neighbourhood, the re- 
sult of whose researches must no doubt prove interesting and use- 
ful. Before there was a road from the height of the parish to the 
shores, there were several boats kept on the loch for the purposes 
of carriage. At the east end of the loch stands the church. 
Next in size to Loch Assynt is Cam- Loch, i.e. the crooked loch, 
in the Elphine, or highest district of the parish. It is a beautiful 
lake, very irregular in shape, as its name implies. Trout are found 
here in abundance, as well as in Loch Assynt. Cam- Loch is in 
a most sequestered spot 


Friths. — 1. The Kyle, already mentioned, is an arm of the sea, 
dividing Assynt from Edderachillis. 2. On the south side of 
Rhustore, there is an arm of the sea running into the bay of Loch- 
inver, which affords safe anchorage for vessels. 

Waterfalls. — There is a fall at Inverkirkig, and another near 
the boundaries of the glebe. The former possesses considerable 
attraction for the admirers of nature. With regard to the latter, 
except when there is a great body of water, after heavy rain, it 
appears insigniBcant. 

Geology and Mineralogy. — From Ledbeg to Achumore, a dis- 
tance of eight miles, there is abundance of limestone ; it then disap- 
pears, and little more is seen of it, till the traveller reaches Duir* 
ness. On the Stronchrubie farm is a stupendous ridge of lime- 
stone rock, interspersed with strata of sandstone. The scenery 
here is truly majestic In the vicinity of populous cities, this rock 
could not fail to prove the source of much wealth. It extends 
about a mile and a half, overhanging the public road* It is almost 
perpendicular, except about the centre. In many parts it is mantled 
with ivy. Birds of prey have their nests here. Its height is pro- 
bably 200 feet. Beyond Achumore there is no limestone found. 
The pasture on limestone bottom is uncommonly rich. 

Botany. — The alpine vegetation of the parish of Assynt is very 
similar to that which is met with in equal elevations in die greater 
part of the north of Scotland. As types may be mentioned, 

Saussurea alpina Chcrleria sedoides 

Hieraciuni alpinum Vaccinium uligtnosum, 

Asplenium viride 

as plants which are not very rare in alpine districts : but less 
generally diffused than such as these last named, onay be men- 
tioned, Carex pulla^ Carex pauciflora^ and Arbutus alpina. 

The limestone districts in the parish are characterized by 
Epipactis latifoliaf Dryas octopetala — the latter in great profusion, 
and perhaps, in Sutherlaudshire, only growing on limestone or mi- 
caceous rocks. 

Among the rare plants found in alpine or subalpine districts of 
the parish, may be mentioned Pyrus Aria^ Apargia alpina^ Lu^ 
zula arcuata, — this last found in Scotland only in three station^ of 
which Benmore, Assynt, is one. 

Silene maritima also grows on Benmore. 

The following may be named as yielded by the bogs in the 
parish : — 

ASSYNT. 109 

Carex filiformis Drosera rotundifulia 

I limosa Sparganium fluitans 

Utricularia minor Cladium Mariscua, In a swamp half* way 

— intermedia between Kylestroma and BadcalL 

Drosera Anglica, in profusion LiguKticum Scoiicum is abundant on the 
■ longifblia shores in some places. 

11. — Civil History. 

There are no printed or manuscript accounts of Assynt extant, 
so far as the narrator knows. Various traditions, however, speak of 
individuals, noted in their day, living in or connected with the 
parish. Among these we may mention Neil Macleod, who resided 
at Ardvrack Castle (now a ruin), built on the banks of Loch 
Assynt, on a peninsula, situated within two miles of the eastern 
extremity of the loch. 

It is said that the unfortunate Marquis of Montrose, who 6gur- 
ed so conspicuously as a Royalist in the civil war in the reign of 
Charles L, after being defeated by General Strachan at Invercar- 
ron, fled towards Assynt, and was betrayed by Macleod, in whom 
he had reposed confidence. 

There are correct plans and maps of Assynt in the possession 
of the noble proprietrix, and a recent map of the county, both mi- 
nute and accurate, has been published. 

The Duchess- Countess of Sutherland is sole proprietrix of the 
parish. It has been in the possession of her Grace's family since 
the early part of the eighteenth century, when it was purchased 
by the then Earl of Sutherland, grandfather of the present Countess. 
In the former Statistical Account, published in 1794, is the 
following narrative : — " State of property^ ^c. — The property of 
this parish has, perhaps, undergone as few changes as any. Tra- 
dition, and even documents declare, that it was a forest of the an- 
cient Thanes of Sutherland. One of these prime Thanes gave it 
in vassalage to one Mac-Kry-Cul, who in ancient times held the 
coast of Coigach, that part of it presently (1793) called the vil- 
lage of Ullapool. The noble Thane thus made Assynt over, as 
Mac-Kry-Cul had recovered a great quantity of cattle carried off 
from the county of Sutherland by foreign invaders, Scandinavians, 
who burnt the great fir forests in this and the neighbouring coast. 

^^ Mac-Kry-CuPs family, by the fate of war in those days of old, 
being reduced to one heir-female, she was given in marriage to a 
younger son of Macleod, Laird of Lewis, the Thane of Suther- 
land consenting thereto, and also making this parish over to the 
new married couple, with its superiority. The result of this mar. 
riage was fourteen successive lairds of the name of Macleod. 


'* In 1660} or about that time, this parish and its superiority be* 
came the property of the Earl of Seaforth, who made it over to 
a younger son of his family, whose successors possessed it for three 
or four generations. Thereafter, it was purchased by Lady Strath- 
naver, who gave it as a present to her Noble and no less deserving 
grandson, the late William, Earl of Sutherland, father of the pre- 
sent Right Honourable Countess of Sutherland, married to Earl 
<xower, heir-apparent to the Marquis of Stafford. Thus the ba- 
rony and parish of Assynt reverted to the Noble family who gave 
it to Mac-Kry-Cul." 

The term of the Thane of Sutherland's charter to Macleod 
was, ^^ as long as a cow gives milk, and waves beat on a rock." 

Family of Assynt. — The whole of the estate and parish of As- 
synt once belonged to the Macleods of Assynt, a branch of the 
ancient family of the Macleods of Lewis. The first of the Assynt 
branch was Norman, second son of Torquil, fourth Baron of Lewis, 
from whom he got Assynt as his patrimony about the year 1860. 
From ^Norman, the estate passed through nine generations, to 
Neil, ninth baron, who, from a combination of his enemies to ef- 
fect his ruin, and other unfortunate events, was denuded of his 
estate about the year 1679. There were encumbrances on the 
property of long standing, and the laird having become security 
for friends, in several small sums, some of his more powerful 
neighbours, taking advantage of his indolence, and the difficulty 
of access to public justice, bought up his debts, by which means 
they carried off his whole estate for less than half its value ; and 
though both he and his heirs raised several actions for the reco- 
very of their just rights, they never obtained any redress. To 
such a length was the spite of his enemies carried against this un- 
fortunate gentleman, that, not satisfied with having deprived him 
of his estate, a criminal process was instituted against him before 
the Court of Justiciary on various charges, of which he was finally 
acquitted by the verdict of a jury of his countrymen, as appears 
from the records of that Court His estate, having fallen into the 
hands of the Seaforth family, was forfeited to the Crown, together 
with the possessions of that family in 1715, and was sold in 1758 
to the late Earl of Sutherland, so that it now forms part of the 
vast territorial property of her Grace the Duchess- Countess of 
Sutherland. On the. death of Neil, the last Baron of Assynt, 
-without issue, the representation of the family devolved on bis 
brother John, who left a son Donald, a captain in the Dutch ser- 

ASSYNT. 1 1 I 

Vice, and he having married an heiress, was enabled thereby to 
purchase the estate of Geanies in Ross-shire. He was succeeded 
by his eldest son Hugh, and Hugh by his son Donald Macleod of 
Grcanies, the late venerable Sheriff-depute of Ross and Cromarty, 
who filled that office with credit to himself and advantage to his 
country nearly sixty years ; having departed this life in January 
1834, in the 89th year of his age. His eldest son predeceased 
his father, leaving a son, still a minor, the present representative 
of the family. * 

Parochial Register. — There is no register of date previous to 
1798. Since that period, births and marriages have been recorded 
with tolerable regularity, but there is no register of deaths. 

Antiquities, — 1. Ardvrack Castle, supposed to be built about 
the year 1581 or 1591 by the Macleods, who originally came from 
Lewis. It has for a considerable period been in ruins, but appears 
to have been strongly built and fortified. 

2. Calda House, a more modem building, erected by the Macken- 
zies, who succeeded the Macleods as Lairds of Assynt This 
building was destroyed by fire, (some say designedly,) about 100 
years ago. Nothing remained but the bare walls. 

3. There is a very large dun or heap at Clachtoll, the remains 
of a Druidical temple, with a double line of stone wall on the 
landward side ; towards the sea it is sufficiently protected by that 
element, and a rocky shore. It used to be called " Tighe tal- 
mhidh na Druinich," i. e. the earthly house of the Druids. 

4. Close to the parish church there is an enclosed burying- 
ground, in which are interred several of the Macleods of Assynt. 

This j)uilding is evidently part of what was once a place of wor- 
ship. The following tradition connected with it explains the cause 
of its being built : 

One Angus Macleod, supposed to be the great-grandson of the 
first Laird of Assynt of that name, had a quarrel with some neigh- 
bouring family. Out of revenge, he set fire to their chapel or 
place of worship. The consequence of this sacrilegious act was, 
his being excommunicated by the Pope. The displeasure of the 
Roman Pontiff was a serious matter in those days. Angus sub- 
mitted, and asked forgiveness at Rome. This was granted, but by 
way of penance, he was enjoined to erect three places of worship, 

* When the estate was sold, as mentioned above, some small compensation for the 
losses of the fiimily was granted by the Crown to the then proprietor, Hugh Macleod 
Esq. of Geanies. 


the remains of one of which we are now describing. A second 
was built at Inver, and the third at Store. 

5« On the Stronchrubie farm, and near the high road, there 
may be seen an extraordinary mass of stone and lime, having the 
appearance of having been in former times a part of some very 
large and thick building, such as an old castle. The lime seems 
as if infused into the mass. As there is not the least vestige of 
any such building in the neighbourhood, it is difficult to account 
for it, unless we suppose it to have assumed its present form in 
consequence of some volcanic eruption. 

There are no* modern buildings of any note in the parish, though 
there are several tolerably good dwelling-houses. 

III. — Population. 

By oensus 1881, the population was 8161—1508 males, and 1656 females. 

In 1760 the population was 1800 
1801 2419 

1821 2803 

So that, upon the whole, the population has been on the increase. 
Of the present population about 1400 are attached to the church 
and parish of Store. 

Yearly average of births for the last seyen years, . 88 

marriages, . . 14 

Number of families, . . • 875 

Average number of individuals in each fiimily, . 5 

Families chiefly employed in agriculture, • 461 

trade, betweien 20 and 80 

All other families, .... 90 

There are no nobility or people of independent fortune resident 
in the parish. 

Language. — The Gaelic language is still universal in Assynt, 
and the only medium of. religious instruction. The English lan- 
guage, however, is making slow biit sure progress. The youth of 
the parish are ambitious of acquiring it, being sensible that the 
want of it proves a great bar to their advancement in life. It is 
likely, nevertheless, that Assynt is one of the very last districts 
in which the Gaelic language shall cease to be the language of 
the people. It is remarkable that the Gaelic School Society will 
probably prove the means, at a remote period, of the expulsion of 
the Gaelic language from the Highlands. The teachers em- 
ployed by that useful society, to whom we owe much, taught the 
young to read the Scriptures in their native tongue. This im- 
planted a desire to acquire knowledge on other subjects, which 
induced them to have recourse to the English language as the 
medium of communication. 

ASSYNT. 113 

Character of the Pecjpfe.— The character of the people may be 
said to be good. They are kind, civil, and extremely hospitable ; 
patient of labour, and capable of enduring much bodily fatigue* 
In general they prefer making immense exertions at times, to more 
moderate but constant labour. They live sparingly. Their chief 
articles of food are herrings and potatoes. Some attention has, of 
late, been paid to cleanliness and neatness about their dwellings, 
but very much remains to be done. Upon the whole, they may 
be said to be contented with their situations. They are naturally 
shrewd and intelligent, and regular in their attendance on public 
worship. Poaching and smuggling, particularly the latter, were 
carried on to an alarming extent, and proved extremely prejudi- 
cial to the morals of the people. Now, the narrator is happy to be 
able to say, that, through the judicious and determined exertions 
of the Noble proprietor, aided by the gentlemen who have the 
management, such irregularities ar« almost unknown amongst us. 

IV. — Industry. 

From situation and climate, the greater part of Assynt, particu- 
larly the interior, is peculiarly adapted for pasturage. According* 
ly a large portion of it is laid out in sheep-walks, viz, Ledbeg, 
Filin, &C. at a rent of L. 540 ; Achumore, L. 838 ; Ardvar^ 
L.220; Stronchrubie, L.205; and Ledmore, L. 80, 

It will thus be seen that sheep> farming is carried on to a con- 
siderable extent. It is also prosecuted systematically. 

Th^ great bulk, however, of the population dwell along the 
shores, where they have the benefit of fishing. They occupy lot« 
of land at rents ranging from L. 2 to L. 5. The land is not high 
rented, but the occupants, in general, are in straitened circum- 
stances. This arises from the over*crowded state of the popula- 
tion. On the lot of land which, according to the rental book, is 
assigned to only one family, two are frequently found residing. 
This is the true cause of our poverty, and, unless emigration on a 
large scale takes place, matters must soon come to a painful crisis. 
At the same time, from want of climate, a great part of Assynt is 
unfit for cultivation. 

Rents. — Of old, the valued rent of the parish was L. 1000 Scots. 
In the year 1794, it was L. 1000 Sterling. In the year 1812, 
when there was a general setting of the farms through the parish, 
it was about L. 5000 ; now it is reduced to something less than 

Quame^.-— From Ledbeg to Achumore the soil is limestone. 


About thirty years ago, an attempt was made to quarry marble 
both at Ledbeg, and in the immediate vicinity of the church. 
The marble was found susceptible of a very fine polish, and an 
enterprising individual, a native of Newcastle, commenced quarry- 
ing. Roads were formed, or rather tracts for the heavy waggons, 
from Ledbeg to Unapool, a distance of sixteen miles. This was 
an undertaking of considerable difficulty, and after a large quanti- 
ty was shipped, it was found attended with such expense, that it 
was impossible to compete with quarries, in more eligible situations, 
and the project was dropped. 

Salmon Fisheries. — There are no fisheries in the parish deserv- 
ing the name, except that on the water of Kirkag, and that which 
leads from Loch Assynt to Lochinver. These are let at a mode- 
rate rent. 

Navigation. — There are very few vessels belonging to Assynt. 
Mr Macdonald, Lochinver, has one or two. Several vessels, how- 
ever, are yearly employed on our coasts in the herring trade, and 
a few in exporting the produce of the parish, which consists chiefly 
^f wool. 

There are no associations in the parish for the encouragement or 
improvement of industry ; but the Noble proprietors supply this de- 
ficiency in a great measure, by rewarding the industrious, and thus 
inciting to additional exertions. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Markets. — There is no market-town within the parish ; neither 

have any markets been established. It is intended to establish a 
cattle market at Inshnadamph. This would prove very advan- 
tageous to the people, and save them the expense and trouble of 
driving their cattle to a greater distance. The Kyle tryst, held in 
the vicinity of Bonar Bridge, forty miles beyond Inshnadamph, is 
the nearest cattle-market at present.* 

Lochinver is the only place deserving the name of a village. In 
it are some good houses, shops, and several tradesmen. In the 
immediate vicinity is a manufactory, for the preserving of butcher- 
meat, fish, and vegetables, which affords our sailors, and others, 
the luxury of fresh meat, whilst they are hundreds of leagues out 
at sea. It is carried on under the auspices of Mr Macdonald, an 
extensive and enterprising sheep-farmer. Regular employment is 
thus given to a number of tradesmen and labourers. 

Means of Communication^ S^c. — In this village, also, is a post- 

* Since writing the above a cattle-market has been established, and is likely to 
prove a permanent benefit. 

ASSYNT. 115 

office. There is another in the immediate neighbourhood of the 
church. The mails arrive regularly twice a-week. This is one of 
the. greatest improvements imaginable. A letter or newspaper 
from London we have the fifth day. In connection with the post- 
office, I am naturally led to notice our excellent roads. Nothing 
has so much contributed to the external improvement of the coun- 
try as these, by which this interesting district, till lately inaccessible^ 
and comparatively unknown, has been opened up to the public ; and 
thus, advantages secured to the inhabitants, which our ancestors 
would have deemed impossible. This improvement is attributable, 
in a great measure, to the Noble proprietors, and, were there no 
other benefit conferred on it, Assynt, on this account, owes a last-' 
ing debt of gratitude to the late excellent Duke of Sutherland. 
The length of road constructed from Aultnacaelgach to Store, in- 
cluding branches to Unapool and Inverkirkig, exceeds forty miles. 
To this may be added several miles of bye roads for the exclusive 
benefit of the tenantry. There is a small convenient harbour at 
Lochinver, where a pier has been erected. There are some other 
harbours, or rather creeks, at Nedd, Oldney, and Ardvar, all ly- 
ing on the north side of the point of Store, which afford shelter and 

Saving^ Bank. — There was a savings' bank established about 
four years ago, and it is now in full operation. It has already 
proved very beneficial. It is under the patronage of the Suther- 
land family, who encourage industry by giving a higher rate of in- 
terest than the banks do, for all sums not exceeding L.20 Sterling. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The parish church is situated within nine 
miles of the southern boundary of the parish — a situation extreme- 
ly inconvenient for the people. The great bulk of the population 
dwell at distances from the church, varying from twelve to eighteen 
miles. The intervening population is very small. The church was 
built upwards of sixty years ago, but was re-slated and seated about 
twenty-five years ago. It is seated for 260 or 280 sitters. It is 
small, but comfortable. There are two other regular preaching 
stations, where the minister has to officiate, viz. Lochinver, distant 
fourteen' miles, to which there is a good road leading; and Kyle- 
side, nearly the same distance, but without any road at all. In 
the former district there is preaching once in the three weeks ge- 
nerally, or once a month at farthest ; in the other, once in the six 
or seven weeks. At Lochinver there is a pretty good house built 
by subscription, to which the late Duke, and the Duchess- Coun- 


tess of Sutherland largely contributed* It is only partially seated 
as yet. It is also used as a General Assembly school-house dur- 
ing the week. In the Kyle side public worship has to be perform- 
ed in the open air, however inclement the weather. Strong appli- 
cations for additional accommodation in both districts have been 
made to the Religious Instruction Commissioners, but hitherto 
without success. There is a Government or Parliamentary church 
at Store, built in 1829. To this is attached a population of 1403, 
leaving upwards of 1700 scattered over a vast extent of inaccessible 
surface, as has already been described. 

In order to carry on pastoral superintendence properly, a minis- 
ter is required at Lochinver, and another at Kyleside. There are 
no missionaries in the parish. Public worship is well attebded by 
the people. The average number of communicants is 80, — a num- 
ber certainly small when compared with the population. The 
communion is regularly administered once a-year. 

The stipend amounts to L. 158, 6s. 8d., including the allowance 
for communion elements. The glebe is pretty extensive. It is 
chiefly adapted for grazing, and, at the rate at which lands in the 
neighbourhood are let, might fetch a rent of L.20 or L.25 Ster- 
ling per annum. The manse was built about fifteen years ago, but, 
from frequent storms, and its exposed situation, it very often re- 
quires repairs. The minister of the Parliamentary church at Store 
has an annual stipend of L. 120, paid by the Exchequer, and a 
glebe worth L. 7 a-year. 

There are no dissenting places of worship, and not above half 
a dozen Dissenters in the whole parish. 

There is a catechist who receives L.8 annually from the so- 
ciety in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and, with 
the exception of this pittance, he is remunerated solely by the 
people. There is no such thing as letting of church seats known 
amongst us. The average annual amount of church collections 
is L. 7, 18s. 

Education* — The schools in the parish are 7 in number, viz. the 
parochial school, three from the Society for Propagating Christian 
Knowledge, one from the Edinburgh Gaelic School Society, one 
from the Glasgow Gaelic School Society, and one from the General 
Assembly's Education Committee. Besides these, in various remote 
districts the people club together to provide a teacher for their 
children, during the winter and spring months. None of these 
schools are endowed except the parochial one. In it the teacher's 

ASSYNT. 117 

salary is L.25; the General Assembly's teacher, L.25 ; the Society 
for Propagating Christian Knowledge give L. 15 to their teachers; 
and the Glasgow Society, L. 12. All these teachers are entitled 
to demand fees, which privilege is not of much advantage to them, 
as far as money is concerned. Many of the people, however, 
make some remuneration, by supplying the teacher with provisions 
and fuel. The Edinburgh Gaelic School Society allow their teach- 
ers a salary of L.25, without the liberty of exacting fees. These 
schools are pretty well attended from the beginning of November 
till the end of March. The branches taught are, reading in Gae- 
lic and English, writing, arithmetic, &c. ; a very few are learning 
Latin. There is much need that the system of education amongst 
us should be improved, and the qualification of teachej^s raised. 
At the same time, we would acknowledge the obligations under 
which we lie to the charitable and religious associations above 
named. The Bible is read daily in all our schools, and attention 
paid to the religious instruction of the pupils. 

A reading club has been instituted, and promises well. 

There is no jail. 

Poor. — The number of poor annually relieved, (exclusive of the 
Stoer district,) 73. Amount annually expended in their relief, 
L. 13, 15s. Amount for that purpose arising from church collec« 
tions, L. 7, 12s. Amount from other sources, L. 6, 3s. The poor 
are divided into three classes, and get respectively 4s., 2s. 6d., and 
2s. each. 

Akhotues. — There is a competent number of public houses li- 
censed, and all others are strictly prohibited the selling of ardent 
spirits. In this respect a decided change for the better has taken 

Fuel. — Peats are universally used, and much difficulty is expe* 
rienced in seasoning them, arising from the excessive rains with 
which we are often deluged. 

Since writing the foregoing Account, Her Grace the Duchess- 
Countess of Sutherland has been removed from this world ; and 
her titles and estates have devolved upon Her Grace's eldest son, 
the present Duke, who has become twenty-second Earl of Suther- 

To the late Duchess, the parish of Assynt owed much. She 
uniformly manifested a warm interest in the welfare of its inhabi- 
tants ; and it is evident they evinced a hereditary and respectful 


attachment to her Grace, who, during the singularly long period 
of seventy-three years, retained possession of the most ancient title 
in Europe. We look forward with conBdence to the present No- 
ble proprietor for a continuation of that kindness, which, for ages, 
characterized the Sutherland family. 

Draum up November 1637. 
Revised JIarch 1840. 





L — Topography and Natural History. 
Extent — The parish of Edderachillis is situated on the north-west 

coast of the county of Sutherland, along the shores of the Atlantic, 
being a portion of the Reay country, commonly called ^^ Duthaich'' 
mhuyAoidfu" Its extreme length, from north to souths is 25 
miles, by an average breadth from west to east towards the inte- 
rior of 7 miles, making 175 square miles, equal to 112,000 acres 
or thereby. In this is included the district of Keanlochbervie, 
some time ago disunited from the parish of Edderachillis, and erect- 
ed into a separate parish qtwad aacra^ under act of Parliament 5 
Geo. IV. cap. 90. 

Edderachillis was part of the barony of Skelbo. It was disponed 
by Hugo Freskyn de Moravia, ancestor of the Duke of Sutherland, 
1186-1203, to his brother. Bishop Gilbert Moray, who in 1235 
disponed it to his brother Richard Moray of Culbyn. About 1440, 
an heiress, Egidia Moray, carried it into the family of Kinnaird of 
Kinnaird. In 1515, Andrew Kinnaird disponed it to John Mac- 
kay of Edderachillis, son of Mackay of Strathnaver, the superiority 
remaining with the Earls of Sutherland. The purchase of 1829 
restored it to the Sutherland family. 

Name. — The name is Celtic, the orthography and pronunciation 
being Eadar^da-chaolasj literally signifying between two friths or 
inlets of the sea, which can be readily reconciled to its geographical 

• Drawn up by A. Stewart, Esq. 


positioii, Kylesku separating it from Assynt on the south ^west, 
and the Kyle of Laxford,* in the ancient division, on the north* 
east, although in modern times it extends to Gualin Hill. 

Boundaries. — It is bounded on the south, by Kylesku, Loch 
Glencoul, parish of Assyntj and some of Creich ; on the west, by 
the Atlantic ocean ; od the south, by the parish of Durness ; and 
on the east, partly by Durness also, and partly by the parish of 

Figure^ General Appearance, and Natural Divisions. — Its figure 
is irregular, intersected with arms of the sea, and from the top of 
one of the mountains, presenting a checquered appearance of lakes, 
glens, rivers, and ravines. To view it from sea, at the distance of 
some miles from the coast, it is allowed to be particularly like Nor- 
way, affording an unbounded field for contemplation to the admirers 
of nature, in consequence of its sublime scenery and striking Alpine 

*' Stranger ! if e*er thine ardent steps have traced 

The northern realms of ancient Caledon, 

Where the proud queen of wilderness hath placed, 

By lake and cataract, her lonely throne ; 

Suhlime hut sad delight thy soul hath known. 

Gazing on pathless glen and mountain high, 

Listing where from the cliffs the torrent thrown, 

Mingle their echoes with the eagle's cry. 

And with the sounding lake, and with the roaming sky, 

'Tis known amid the pathless wastes of Reay.*' 

The parish is naturally divided by arms of the sea into the three 
following divisions, 1. Scourie division, situated between Loch 
Glendhu and Loch I^axford. 2. ** Ceathramh-garhh^^ between 
Loch Laxford and Loch Inchard; and 3, Ashare. The name 
of the first of those divisions cannot be traced to any particular 
origin, whilst that of the other^two may be ascribed to the natural 
appearance of the localities, — " Ceathramh-garbh,^* in Gaelic signi- 
fying a rough section of a country ; a term applicable in reality to 
this division ; and Ashare, or " FaS'4.hire^ with the " JF" silent, 
signifying arable land, or land capable of producing corn. 

Mountains. — The mountains demanding particular notice are 
those of Beinne-Leothaid, Beinne-Stac, Beinne-Stroim, Arkle, 
and the south-west range of the Reay forest to the summit of 
Toinne-Bheinne, Meal Horn, Sabhal-mhoir and Mille-Rinidh, 
with part of Beinne-Shith. The shape of Beinne-Stac is conical, 
Arkle rather level in the top, with a glassy or stalactical appear- 

* Meaning the salmon frith,— from Lax, a salmon, and^ri^, a frith. — See Jame- 
son*8 Dictionary 


Bficej eiSpeciaUy after rain ; each of which, as well as the forest 
range^ are close to dOOO feet above the level of the sea. 

Lakes. — The most remarkable lakes are Loch-moir and Loch- 
Stac; bat many others of considerable size might be mentioned. 

Rtveri.— Lazford and Inchard are the largast, with innumerable 
rivulets, all discharging themselves into the Atlantic. 

Islands. — A cluster of islands, of about twenty, lies between 
Edderachillis and Assynt, and to the north of Scourie Bay, the 
inland of Handa ; no less celebrated from its rising perpendicularly 
on the north*west side to a height of 600 feet or thereby ; than for 
the myriads of sea-fowl which migrate to its precipitous cliffs in the 
summer season to bring forth their young. The tourist would be 
as much gratified by a visit to this island as to Staffa, the charac- 
ter of its rocks being more singular and striking. The basaltic 
columns of Stafia are to be met with in more than in one part, but 
those of Handa are peculiar to it only, lying as they do horizontal- 
ly, and presenting an appearance as if all were built by the hand of 

Natural JHarSottr*.— The whole line of coast is much favoured 
in respect to harbours. They are sufficient to afford safe anchorage 
to the whole naval and mercantile shipping of Great Britain. 
Those of most note are lochs Laxford, Inchard, Badcall, Calva, 
Glendhu, and Sound of Handa. 

General Description. — Owing to the mountainous character of 
the country, the natural capabilities are chiefly confined to the 
rearing of sheep: the greater part is so appropriated. The sea 
coast is to be viewed of similar importance as regards the fisheries. 
The quantity of com is limited, and, in consequence of the rug- 
gedness and unevenness of the surface, it is raised by the force of 
manual labour, with scarcely any aid from the plough. 
' But what nature has denied in one way for the support of man 
is bestowed in another, by the unlimited quantities of fish which 
surround the coast, particularly the herrings : they formerly fre- 
quented it in great shoals in autumn, and still not unfrequcntly in 
summer. The pasture is of a healthy and sound quality. Such por- 
tions of the land as are under tillage are not of a bad quality, and 
yield fair returns. The rivers produce salmon, and the lakes are 
all well stocked with trout,— both of excellent quality. 

Meteorology, — The weather is changeable, and the prevailing 
winds are south and west The temperature cannot be reckoned 
cold, but the atmosphere, owing to the vapours from the Atlantic, 


and the high bills attracting the clouds, is humid, and productive of 
rheumatic and Scrofulous affections, the latter often proving fatal. 
Heavy falls of snow occur, but are of short duration along the 
coast, although the higher grounds partially retain their coats till 
June. There are instances of great longevity and retention of phy- 
sical faculties. Small-pox made its appearance last season, but its 
progress, under Divine will, was soon arrested by the immediate 
and general application of cow-pox, attended to by a surgeon 
appointed for the purpose, at the expense of the Duke of Su- 
therland. Solar and lunar rainbows are not unfrequent; and a 
most striking view is that of the sun setting in summer, casting its 
rays in crimson hue across the bosom of the ocean. The aurora 
borealis or Northern Lights occasionally shew themselves, are 
extremely vivid, and, according to vulgar acceptation, " arrayed 
against each other in the order of a line of battle." Although 
we are not strangers to the terror of the thunder storm, seldom 
or ever any accidents are heard of; flashes of lightning are pe- 
riodically common about the commencement of each quarter. A 
rare, if not an unprecedented, phenomenon in this latitude, occurred 
in winter 1838, by an avalanche destroying no less than a herd of 
twelve deer; and such was the force of that terrific body, that it not 
only killed the animals on the spot, but when the forester found 
them, their bones were crushed to pieces. The fury of sea storms 
is often the cause of great alarm and damage, particularly in 
winter, and to the observer on shore is magnificently grand when 
they are from the north-west ; the noise of the billows of the At- 
lantic heaving against the rocks is tremendous, and only equalled 
by the height to which they are raised, known in some instances to 
be no less than about 600 feet against the precipitous rocks of 
Handa. Shipwrecks, however, are not so common as they were, 
owing to a lighthouse having been erected on Cape Wrath. 

Hydrography. — The most direct approach from the south to 
this parish is through a part of Assynt to Kylesku, at which there 
is a ferry between Edderachillis and Assynt, of 380 yards broad. 
The tide of this narrow inlet is extremely rapid, readily accounted 
for by the great expanse of sea on both sides ; from it two exten- 
sive lochs branch into the interior. Loch Glendhu on the left, and 
Loch Glencul on the right hand, — the former upwards of three 
miles long, by one and a-half broad, and the latter nearly five long, 
by one broad, — both of great depth, and no less celebrated for the 
quantity and quality of their herrings than for their singular wild- 



ness and romantic scenery, the hills rising on every side to a great 
height, and interspersed with formidable cliffs. The great arm 
of the sea forming this inlet on the west, juts in firom the ocean a 
distance of ten miles, and is commonly but erroneously called in 
the charts " Loch Assynt" To instance the importance of Loch 
Glendhu for herrings, so recently as the autumn of 1829, it was 
estimated that the value of herrings caught in it was L30,000 ; and 
it has been known that 100 herring busses have resorted to it at a 
time. The other harbours and sea lochs, already noticed, are pro- 
ductive of herrings and other varieties of fish, including shell-fish. 
To advert to the fresh water lakes, Loch-Moir and Loch-Stac 
are the two most conspicuous ; not only from their inlanc position, 
and as giving rise to the river Laxford, but as they form the con- 
fines of the great Reay Forest on the south-west. The former is 
five miles long by one broad ; the latter three long and two broad. 
Their water, rising from the bowels of the mountains, which are 
principally gneiss, quartz, and felspar, is particularly limpid and 
free of impurities. 

Good wholesome water is to be had in all parts, principally from 
perennial springs. 

Geology and Mineralogy. — The characters and varieties that 
arise under those heads are neither numerous nor very important, 
as far as they have been yet discovered ; and did we enter on par- 
ticulars, too much space would necessarily be occupied. As a 
whole, Edderachillis is of the primitive and transition classes, and 
the ranges of mountains already mentioned, with little exception, 
consist of gneiss, various hornblende rocks, granite in vieins, and 
quartz rock. Limestone is met with on the sides of Lochs Glen- 
dhu, Glencul, and Loch-Moir. Hornblende slates are to be found 
round Scourie and at Kylestrome. Handa island is composed 
chiefly of red sandstone, the quality of which cannot be excelled 
for every description of architectural work. • 

Soil, — The soil along the coast and in the valleys, principal- 
ly recumbent on gneiss, is of various descriptions. The great- 
er part of the arable is a mixture of gravel and moss, fertiliz- 
ed by the application of sea-weed for manure, which imparts 
to the land a considerable portion of organic matter, and its 
alkaline properties neutralize the acid which the moss con- 
tains. The district of Ashare is better soil than the rest, being 
dark loam intermixed with sand, and the features of that section 
of the parish convey a belief that it has been earlier inhabited and 



cultivated than the rest The arable land of the island of Handa 
18 of a similar qualify. 

Zoology. — The domestic animals need not be enumerated under 
this head, as reference will be made to them in another part of 
this account. The wild animals common to the rest of the High- 
lands are to be met with. The 6rst to be noticed is the red-deer 
(Cervus elaphusjj and not inapplicably named the monarch of 
the forest In this country, where so much is done for preserv- 
ing and propagating his species, we are called upon to pav more 
than ordinary attention in delineating what has been done. The 
Reay forest, or Diru^moir, has had always a place amongst the 
principal forests in Scotland ; a character in this respect it main- 
tained for many generations, till within the last quarter of a cen- 
tury, when it gradually declined, owing to the introduction of 
sheep. Upon the expiry of the leases of such part of the forest as 
had been thus allotted for sheep, — the Duke of Sutherland has re- 
stored the whole to what it originally was, excluding sheep, and 
placing the range in charge of foresters solely for the preservation 
of deer. This not only amply provides for the animal most cha- 
racteristic of the country, and most conducive to the sportsman^s 
adventures, but also relieves the whole neighbouring sheep-walks 
of the greater part of the deer that roamed over them, the main- 
tenance of which was a considerable burden. The extent of terri- 
tory so exclusivcj^y laid off for deer cannot be less than 60,000 
acres, whereof the half is in this parish, and the rest in Durness, 
inhabited by some thousands of deer, and inferior as a forest to 
none in Scotland. Sir Robert Gordon, in his History of the Earl- 
dom of Sutherland, written in the year 1 630, gives the following 
account of the forest, viz. — " The halfe of the Diri-more, which 
lyes toward the north and north-west, doth appertein of late to 
Macky, by the Erie of Southerland, his gift and disposition. In 
the Diri-more, ther is a hill called Arkill ; all the deir that ar bred 
therein, or hant within the bounds of that hill, have forked taills, 
thrie incles long, whereby they are easailie known and decerned 
from all other deir." The description thus given of the deer hav- 
ing forked tails is still applicable. 

It may be added, that the Laxford affords angling for salmon 
and trout, not to be surpassed by any river in the north. 

The quadrupeds and birds are thus described in Sir Robert 
Gordon's work of 1630, and have since undergone very little 
change, vit. " All these forrests and schases are verie profitable for 


feiding of bestiall, and delectable for hunting. They are full of 
reid-deir and roes, woulffs, foxes, wyld catts, brocks skuyrells, 
whittrets, weasels, otters, martrixes, hares, and fumarts. In these 
forrests, and in all this province, ther is great store of partridges, 
pluivers, capercalegs, blackwaks, m«refowls, heth-hens, swanes^ 
bewters, turtle-doves, herons, dowes, steares or stirlings, lair-igigh 
or knag, (which* is a foull lyke unto a paroket or parret, which 
maks place for her nest with her beck in the oak trie), duke, draig, 
widgeon, teale, wild-gouse, ringouse, routs, whaips, shot^whaips, 
woodcock, larkes, sparrows, snyps, blackburds or osills, meiveis, 
thrushes, and all other kinds of wild-foule and birds, which are to 
be had in any pairt of this kingdonae." From the above list, only 
the wolf and capercailzies need to be excluded, in order to make 
it nearly applicable to the present time. 

Birds. — These are, three species of the eagle, the royal, black 
mountain, and osprey or fish-eagle, — hawks, (various kinds,) — 
owls, cuckoos, black-cocks, ptarmigans, moorfowls, partridges, 
golden and gray plovers, woodcocks, snipes, starlings, sparrows^ 
thrushes, wagtails, swallows, kingfishers, rock, and wood, and 
sea pigeons, mavis, and landrails. Swans, wild geese, ducks, (dif- 
ferent kinds,) the great northern divers, scarts, solan-geese, cranes, 
gulls, and many other sea-fowls and birds of passage, frequent 
Handa in the summer months. 

Fishes, — These are, salmon, trout, char, herrinf, ling, cod, scate, 
turbot, flounder, haddock, halibut, mackerel, tusk, lythe, coalfish, 
dogfish, whiting, eel, silver-eyed fish, sunfish, and gurnards. In a 
country where the coast swarms with fish, some may have escaped 
notice, and others, perhaps, have not been discovered j for, so lately 
as December 1838, the writer transmitted to the Edinburgh College 
Museum, two very rare specimens recently found at Scourie. Pro- 
fessor Jameson gave them a place in the Museum, being presented 
by the lamented Duchess- Countess of Sutherland, and describes 
them thus : " Two specimens of fishes ; the smaller of the two is 
very rare, and is new to the Fauna of Scotland ; it is the Poor 
Cod of authors ; the other, or larger specimen, is the Ttimaculated 

Cetacea. — The cetaca frequenting the coast are, the whale and 
the porpoise : and the seal may be included. A very remarkable 
specimen as to size, measuring in length 8 feet 2 inches, was shot 
by Captain Granville Gower Loch, R.N. in 1837, in the sea be- 
tween Assynt and Edderachillis. 



Neither the whale nor the sunfish are captured on this coast ; 
the former seldom in any part of Scotland. The latter used to 
be taken in considerable numbers on the coasts of the islands of 
Harris and Barra, through the dexterity of the natives harpoon- 
ing them at sea. The liver alone yields oil to the amount of 360 
gallons at an average. 

Crustacea and ShelUJish are to be had in great varieties and of 
superior quality, consisting of lobsters, crabs, oysters, mussels, 
cockles, welks, and limpets, also pearls in the rivers. The lob- 
sters are brought in large quantities to London, and allowed to be 
the best exposed in Billingsgate. 

Beasts and Birds of Prey and Vermin. — On this subject it 
may be remarked, that wolves were at one time numerous, and, to 
avoid their ravages in raising bodies from the graves, the popula- 
tion had recourse to the Island of Handa as their place of inter* 
ment. This is the tradition of the country, and it is believed to 
be well founded. The destructiveness of the fox amongst the 
sheep is now most to be complained of. The otter amongst the 
salmon, and the common rat and mouse, could all be well dispen- 
sed with. No country produces finer specimens of the black 
mountain eagle, so hostile to lambs; ravens and crows also com- 
mit depredations. 

Reptiles. — These are, the adder {Anguis Eryx)^ lizard, toad, 
and frog. The firet is injurious. The following instance is worthy 
of notice : Some years ago, Donald Morrison, tenant, A share, 
was stung ; and the effects gave rise to apprehensions of imme- 
diate death. When in the greatest agony, the captain of a strange 
vessel landed on the coast, who prescribed the following singular 
cure : a young chicken to be split or cut up alive, and instantly 
applied to the stung part. After the same treatment had been re- 
peated by cutting up alive and applying nine chickens without in- 
termission, the patient was relieved ; each chicken which was ap- 
plied indicating by its swelling that it had absorbed poison. The 
individual who underwent this treatment recovered, is still alive, 
and enjoys perfect health. 

Botany. — The field for the botanist is rather limited. Profes- 
sor Graham remarks, that the Luziila arcuata has been found only 
in three stations in Britain, the summit of the mountains at the 
source of the Dee, Benmore in Assynt, and Fionnbhein, ranging 
into this parish. 

There are appearances of the whole country having been at 


some period covered with wood, in the remains of trees, principally 
fir, which are found in the mosses. The natural wood now stand- 
ing is limited to about 600 acres, almost birch, along the banks of 
Loch-Moir, Loch-Stac, and at Badna bay. Wood has not been 
planted, with the exception of a very small portion round the fac- 
tor's house at Scourie, and has given way owing to its proximity 
to the ocean. There can be no doubt, that all kinds indigenous 
to the British Isles would grow in the interior, if they were on a 
large scale, and properly attended to. Apple, also pear trees, 
and small fruit bushes, as also culinary vegetables, thrive well in 
the garden at Scourie. 

II. — Civil History. 
Nothing is known of Edderachillis as a parish, earlier than 

1726, the date of its erection, — except that, before that time, it 
formed part of the parish of Durness, and was disjoined on an ap- 
plication to the General Assembly by the heritor. Lord Reay, and 
Mr John Mackay, minister of Durness, and endowed by a fund 
arising from the teinds, and a general subscription over Scotland. 
The district, however, occupies rather a conspicuous place in the 
annals of the Mackay's country. A branch of the Mackays, at so 
early a period as 1550, took possession of the territory of Ekidera- 
chillis by displacing the Macleods, and planted themselves at 
Scourie, under the title of " Mackays of Scouri^" The unjusti- 
fiable means to which they had recourse to procure this settle- 
ment, is defined in the last Statistical Account by the Rev. Mr 
Falconer. A repetition of it here is unnecessary. 

Amongst the descendants of the Mackays of Scourie, were men 
eminent for piety and chivalry. The history of one of them in 
particular claims attention, whose character merits admiration 
for its many virtues. This was Lieutenant- General Hugh Mac- 
kay of Scourie, the famous Commander-in-Chief of the time of 
King William and Mary. He was born in 1640 ; the account of 
his life, published by his descendant, Mr John Mackay of Rock- 
field, is well worthy of a perusal. He fought against Dundee at 
the battle of Killicrankie ; and although the fortunes of that day 
proved adverse, he showed great military skill in his retreat, and 
fully regained any character it might have^ been supposed he had 
lost, by his great success in Ireland, particularly at the battle of 
the Shannon, where he displayed much military skill and bravery. 
Many other great exploits could be mentioned. He was to have 
been rewarded by a peerage, under the title of " Earl of Scourie ;'' 


but this was prevented by the alleged intrigue of his rival, Mac- 
kenzie of Coigacb or Cromarty, This great naan's career termi- 
nated in 1692; he fell shortly after the siege of Namur, where he 
commanded the British division of the grand army. 

Parochial Register* — There are no traces of a parochial record 
having been kept prior to 1819. From that period, births and 
marriages have been carefully recorded. 

Antiquities. — Little can be stated on this head. At Kylestrome 
there are the remains of a Danish fort tolerably entire : and at 
Scourie there are still visible the remains of a similar building, as 
well as of tumuli. At Badnabay, also, there is the appearance of 
a Druidical circle of stones. 

Laiid-oumers. — The Duke of Sutherland is sole proprietor of 
the parish, — into whose possession, with the rest of the Reay coun- 
try, it came in 1829: it was then almost in a state of nature, with- 
out a foot of road or other improvements,— the most commendable 
thing about it being the excellent deportment of its natives as to 
religion, and in respect of moral and social order. 

RoadSf Sfc. — The aspect of the country has been since changed 
by the construction of roads, erection of inns, and farm-houses. 
These improvements extended over the whole county of Sutherland. 
In the aggregate, no less than 480 miles of roads have been made, 
greatly by the means, and wholly through the instrumentality, of 
bis Grace. Thcf portion of these roads confined to this parish is 
32 miles in extent; and three inns have been erected in it solely 
at the Duke's expense. 

Means of Communication. — It appears from the former Statisti- 
cal Account, that there was no regular post communication with 
the south, — a circumstance which caused great complaint in these 
days ; and the only way of receiving letters was by a few of the pa- 
rishioners contributing to send a runner once a-fortnight to Tongue, 
to which place there was a communication from the south round 
by Caithness, — the difference between the direct line and this route 
being at least 150 miles. Instead of this, there is now a post- 
office at Scourie, having intercourse, by means of a mail-gig twice 
a- week, with Golspie, where there is a daily post to all parts of 
the kingdom. The internal communication was equally defective, 
— the intercourse being carried on by boating, and on unshod 
ponies, which scrambled over the precipices with wonderful safety 
and agility. Few accidents arose from either. The last was the 
case^of Captain William Scobie of Ardvar, who was drowned in 


the sound of Handa, exceedingly lamented on account of his many 
excellent qualities. 

Buildings. — In a country like this, almost entirely pastoral, 
many extensive buildings are not required. It is a marked fea- 
ture in its character, since the succession of the Duke of Suther- 
land, that new farm-houses and inns have displaced the old, — in- 
troducing a new era in this district, and illustrating the liberality 
and ability of the new landlord. 


The population in 1792, according to the last Statistical Ac- 
count, was 1024; and the last census makes it 1965, giving the 
striking increase of 941, notwithstanding that many families emi- 

Character of the People^ 8fc. — The population is domiciled along 
the coast in townships or hamlets, each family possessing a cer- 
tain portion of land. Their houses are of a better description than 
the ordinary run of Highland houses, and amongst them are a few 
slated cottages. The people are moral, hospitable, and very mind- 
ful of their poor. They are particularly honest ; and hardly ever 
a case of theft occurs, even when the wants of the population are 
great. For example ; a ship laden with com was stranded at 
Loch Laxford in 1838; and though the vessel and cargo, in the 
confusion of the shipwreck, was laid open to pillage, — to the cre- 
dit of the people be it told, nothing was stolen ; a self-denial 
scarcely to be met with anywhere, under similar circumstances. 
Gaelic is the vernacular tongue, and generally spoken : the great- 
er number of the young speak English also ; and the few south 
country shepherds amongst them speak English only. 

Illegitimate births seldom occur, — there having been only four 
within the last three years. 

The names most' prevalent, are Morrison, Mackay, Macleod, 
and Mackenzie. The men are athletic; and such of them as 
were in the army made first-rate soldiers. Their features are 
marked, and, although not particularly well favoured, indicate a 
bold and resolute character. The women are comely. The co- 
lour of the hair is generally light, and the complexion rather fair. 
In the article of dress, they are not extravagant. On Sundays 
and holidays, they are neatly and cleanly attired. The elderly 
people dress in cloth of their own manufacture. Such as repair to 
the south and Caithness herring-fishing, adopt, to a considerable 
extent, the lowland dress and habits. 

Ur^nuw iuOuriuiJi'U*. 



IV. — Industry. 
AgricuUiire and Fishing. — The productive employments of the 
people consist in tilling the ground and fishing, mih the various 
operations attendant on both. In a country where there is not an 
immediate market for the sale of fish, and for affording the neces- 
saries of life, the combination of these employments is found to 
answer well. The operation of laying down the crop commences 
about the middle of March, and finishes in May. Harvest begins 
in August, and ends in October. The crops raised are, potatoes, 
bear or bigg, and oats. In the absence of the plough, the imple- 
ment used in laying down the crop is the common garden spade and 
Cas^rmn. A description of the latter having been so repeated- 
ly given in other accounts of Highland parishes, it need not be 
presented here. Since the construction of the roads, many of the 
tenants have carts, which are in all about forty: these were un- 
known before the Duke acquired the estate. 

Soon after the sowing is completed, the most enterprising com- 
mence the early herring fishing; and such as have large boats, in the 
latter end of July, on the Caithness coast, whence they return in the 
beginning of September. Their occupation in winter is promiscuous, 
— thrashing corn, attending to their cattle, making, repairing, and 
trimming herring nets for the ensuing season — the females spin- 
ning and knitting. The rate charged for spinning hemp is 6d. 
per pound, but in the neighbouring district of Assynt, Sd. ; and 
it not unusually happens that a reckoning is kept amongst the 
members of the family, between sisters and brothers, of the quan- 
tity spun for herring nets, and closed by payment. This exact- 
ness cannot be too highly extolled, as it inculcates economy and 
value for money, so very desirable to be observed by all classes in 
the Highlands. Lobster-fishing is also carried on by a London 
company, who employ a number of the natives in procuring the 
lobsters, which they carry off alive in well-smacks to the Thames. 
This fishing commences in April, and ends in October. 

The last to be noticed is the salmon-fishery, commencing in 
March and closing in August. 

Kelp. — The manufacturing of kelp in former years gave employ- 
ment to a number of the people. Advancement in the science of 
chemistry disclosed substitutes for kelp, which have entirely thrown 
it out of the market, — a result not to be regretted, as the sea 
weed from which it was made is the manure that Nature has set 
apart for the land. Although kelp yielded a certain revenue to 


a landlord, its manufacture retarded agricultural improvements, 
and thereby curtailed the quantity of produce which the land would 
otherwise yield for the maintenance and comfort of the popula- 

Produce. — In order to bring all under one view, a table is here 
presented, showipg the number of men employed, the amount of 
stock and capital invested, and annual returns ; with a comparison 
betwixt the particulars of this and the last Statistical report of the 

Live-stock. — The breed of sheep on the large farms is a pure 
Cheviot, to ^hich great attention is paid. The sheep in the 
hands of small tenants is a cross between the native breed of 
small black-faced sheep and the Cheviot, and of late years has 
been much improved. The breed of black-cattle, comparatively 
speaking, is not very good, and much might be done towards its 
improvement. ' 

Before the hills were taken up for sheep stocks, the country 
was deservedly famed for the breed of Highland ponies or gamms^ 
extremely hardy, and some of them living to the age of thirty. The 
present Orkney breed is in a great degree descended from them, 
having at one time been sold hence in considerable droves. 

Manufactories. — No establishment of this kind exists, and there 
is rather a scarcity of artisans and mechanics. 

Rent of Land. — The average rent of arable land per acre can- 
not be exactly specified, as each lot or portion has a share of 
pasture land attached to it, held in common by the tenants of the 
respective townships. The following may convey an idea of the 
extent and nature of these holdings. The rents payable by each 
small tenant are from L. 2 to L. 5. To illustrate, we will advert 
to a L. 3 rent, which is a very common one. In a favourable sea- 
son, the crop produced, together with milk and fish, supports a 
family of four for eight months. Three small Highland cows, 
eight sheep, and one horse, form the stocking. 

These holdings, with their supply of fuel, however limited they 
may appear, — in a country where fish is abundant, enable the fru- 
gal occupants to live moderately well. 

Wages. — The wages of carpenters, smiths, masons, and tailors 
are about 2s. 6d. per day. Farm-servants, besides board, receive 
L. 7 yearly ; maids, L. 3, lOs. Mr Falconer states the wages in 
1792 to have been, for a farm-servant, L.2, and for a maid-ser- 
vant, 17s. 8d. yearly — besides perquisites. 


S : :g ; ; ; 

■iiP§3i5 'm ^IS§S§I 

: As^'Hi iS2 -Mi^U 

■8k|»| ' ■ 

.■3 i 'I 

t-ij'lPfs'll'll'i 1 IJ 





It is to be regretted that the cod and ling fisheries are not more 
prosecuted ; the natives are excellent herring fishers, but too lax 
as to the other : indeed, as yet, little or nothing has been done, 
in applying skill or capital towards the advancement of this im- 
portant branch of industry. 

The island of Handa is tenanted by twelve families. Besides 
fishing, they have recourse to other employment of a very ha- 
zardous character, by resorting to the daring enterprise of going a- 
fowling among the precipitous rocks round the island, from whence 
they bring, at the imminent risk of their lives, a vast quantity of 
sea fowls and eggs, to be used by them for food, and the feathers 
to be disposed of to their mainland neighbours. In this perilous 
avocation, some have fallen over the rocks, and been instantly kill- 
ed. It is curious enough, that they have established nothing less 
than Royalty amongst them, in the person of the eldest widow on 
the island, who is designed Queen ; and her prerogative is recog- 
nized not only by the islanders, but by visitors from the mainland. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Ecclesiastical State. — The whole population is of the Church 

of Scotland, and there are no Dissenting or Seceding families in 

the parish. There are two churches ; one at Badcall, and another at 

Keanlochbervie, both commodious, and in excellent repair. 

The stipend is the minimum, L. 150, whereof L.103, 6s. 8d is 
paid by the Exchequer, and the balance, L.46, 13s. 4d., by the he- 
ritor. The extent of the glebe is about 320 acres, and its yearly 
value L.30, or thereby. The manses and offices at Badcall and 
Keanlochbervie respectively are recent erections, the former built 
by the heritor in 1835, and the latter by Government in 1828. 

Education, — The schools are the parochial school at Scouqe, 
and a school at Ashare, from the Society for Propagating Christ- 
ian Knowledge. There is no regular Sabbath school kept The 
attendance at both schools is considerable It is believed that a 
parochial school in connection with Keanlochbervie church will be 
soon established. In some of the remote hamlets, there is private 
tuition in winter. The yearly amount of the parochial schoolmas- 
ter's salary is L. 35, 17s. 9d. : the school fees and other emolu- 
ments are trifling. A reading club has been recently established 
at Scourie. 

Savings Bank. — There is one Savings bank at Scourie. The 
whole amount invested is L. 443, Vs. 6d., and the operations are 
very limited. 


Poor and Parochial Funds. — The average number of persons 
receiving parochial aid is about 40, and the allotment to each 
yearly is from 3s. to li>s« The average amount of annual contri- 
butions for the poor is about L.20, whereof there is from church 
collections L. 14, and from the heritor L.6. No legal assessment 
has been imposed* 

Fuel. — This article, so very necessary for the existence and 
comfort of man, nature has provided in great abundance. Tracts 
of moss are open to all, and at no other expense than that of cut« 
ting the turf, and drying it by exposure to the action of the at- 

JuffUit 1840. 





L — Topography and Natural History. 
Namtj Sfc. — The name Kildonan was spelt Keldurunachj in a 
charter by Gilbert Murray, who was Bishop of Caithness between 
the years 1222 and 1245 ; and in the seventeenth century, it was 
written Kildonnand. This name was originally confined to, as it 
still is the distinctive name of, the township where the church and 
manse were, at a very remote period, erected, and where they still 
stand ; and upon the division of the country into parishes, the 
name of the ancient church was used as that of the extensive tract 
of the county of Sutherland, now forming the parish of Kildonan* 
Many of the early monks and other ecclesiastics, who were .scatter* 
ed throughout Scotland after Dioclesian's persecution, appear to 
have penetrated into Sutherland, and hence, those places in which 
their cells and residences were fixed, have been distinguished by 
the prefix of Kil from Cella^'^ a cell or chapel, which is found in 

* Drawn up by George Sutherland Taylor, Esq. Golspie. 

f Almost all the words now used in the Gaelic languast connected with religious 
establishments, have been borrowed from the old monkish Latin used by the firtt 
Christian miaaionaries in the Highlands, to denote new offices and terms not previous- 
ly known. Thus the Gaelic of church is Eaglah, from the Latin EccUtia ; the 
Gaelic of Bbhop is Eatbi^f from Epitcoput ; the Gaelic of abbot is Abb, from 


many of the names of places in Sutherland, as well as in other 
parts of Scotland, Thus Kildanan is derived from Kil, a cell, and 
Durun or Donauj the proper name of its original inhabitant, whose 
memory has been handed down by tradition, with great veneration, 
and who is distinguished as Saint Donan. The leading valley, 
and most important part of the parish, is, however, as frequently 
called Strath Helmsdale^ (disregarding the tautology of Strath and 
Dale,) as it is called the Strath of Kildonan ; but in Gaelic it is 
alone known by the name of Stra' Iligh^ while the river is called 
Aven-Iliffhj — and the village of Helmsdale, at the mouth of the 
river, Bun^Iligh^ — the root or lower end of the IligK All this 
strengthens the belief that the river Helmsdale is the " Hiusjlu' 
men" or river Hie of Ptolemy, who places that river on the present 
east coast of Sutherland, and close to " Verubium promontorium,^* 
which is unquestionably the Ord of Caithness. The name Hie is 
therefore older than that of Helmsdale, which must have been in* 
troduced, long subsequent to the time of Agricola, by the north« 
men, whose inroads and adventures on the coasts of Sutherland 
and Caithness, during the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, 
are so often narrated in the northern Sagas, and historically ar> 
ranged by Torfaeus. Kildonan^ again, is believed to have origi- 
nated dfter the settlement of Christian missionaries in the north of 
Scotland, and is, therefore, in all probability, of more recent origin 
than the name Helmsdale. 

Extent^ Boundaries^ and Topographical Appearances. — This pa- 
rish is altogether inland. It may be said to be divided by a great 
leading strath, into which other less important straths or mountain 
passes open ; and, accordingly, the former account of the parish 
states, that ^^ it resembles the form of a tree, stretching out at the 
top or height of the parish into branches." This is so far appli- 
cable, that the great and leading strath of Kildonan or Helmsdale, 
below the church, being in the centre of the narrowest and lowest 
corner of the parish, may be compared to the trunk of the tree, 
and the smaller straths or glens, called Tilny, Free, and Achnahow, 
opening into it at obtuse angles on the west side, and those of Suis- 
gill and Kinbrace on the east side, may not inaptly be considered 
as the side-branches. Kildonan is bounded on the east by part of 
the county of Caithness, having the picturesque and towering 

Abbot ; the Gaelic of priest is Sofforfy from Sacerdot ; and the Gaelic of a chapel, or 
the primitive resting place of a Christian missionary, was Cillf pronounced KU9 from 
CeUa^ a chapel or cellar. 


peaks of the Morven Hills, not far distant from the boundary in 
that direction. The north boundary of the parish of Loth, run- 
ning from the top of the ridge terminating in the Ord of Caithness, 
to the westward, and along the elevated summits of Ben-vallich, 
and the high range of hills to Craigaboddich, intervenes between 
Kildonan as its southern line of march, and the German Ocean, to 
which the nearest point of the parish is distant about two miles. On 
the west, the line of mountain tops from Craigaboddich, along the 
centre of the high table-land at the head of Skinsdale, to the great 
mountain Ben-Ormin, and thence to Cromolt, near the head of 
Strathnaver, separate Kildonan from the parishes of Clyne and 
Farr ; and on the north, an irregular march crossing the great 
Ballach between the valleys of Strathnaver and Kildonan, and 
thence going over the top of Ben Griam-beg, and the highest part 
of Knockfin, to the county of Caithness, divides the parish from 
part of Farr, and the southern part of the parish of Reay. The 
extreme length of the parish, either from Cromolt or the Balloch 
near Ben Griam, to the top of the Ord of Caithness, is fully 24 
miles, in a direct line. The breadth varies considerably, being 
towards the south end of the parish from 5 to 10 miles, and to- 
wards the north end from 12 to 17 miles, in straight lines. The 
northern division of the parish is all elevated ground, and exposed 
to the unbroken sweep of every blast and storm that rage amidst 
the highest mountains of Sutherland and Caithness. The general 
aspect of this part of the parish is characterized by several high 
and massy mountains; some elevated table-land, of considerable ex- 
tent, thickly covered with heather and alpine plants ; and several 
lakes, of which four are of a large size ; but their shores and the 
country immediately surrounding them being in general tame, 
the expanse of their waters cannot be said to afford those enchant- 
ing and remarkable views for which other lakes in the Highlands, 
encircled by a wild variety of precipitous crags, towering pinnacles, 
and verdant glades, are so justly celebrated. The southern part 
of the parish may be said to consist of two parallel ranges of 
mountains, between which lies the very beautiful valley of Helms- 
dale or Kildonan. This valley, which extends throughout the 
whole length of the parish, varies in breadth from one and-a-half 
to three miles, between the bases of the steep sides of the strath. 
The river Helmsdale, a large and very handsome stream, which 
may be classed among the second rate rivers of Scotland, occupies 
the centre of the valley, and rolls down, with many graceful 


curves in its course, amidst holms and haughs of the brightest 
verdure, and occasionally through birch*covered plats that partially 
conceal some of the bends and reaches of the stream, until it enters 
the German Ocean, at the thriving fishing village of Helmsdale^ 
which is situate in the adjoining parish of Loth. The highest 
mountains are at the boundaries of the adjoining parishes, and 
Ben Griam-more, one of these mountains, is nearly 2000 feet high. 
All the other lofty hills are deeply indented by headlong torrents^ 
which often transversely cut the highest ranges of the hills almost 
down to their bases, and thus form many wild chasms, and great 
and abrupt inequalities of the surface. A great proportion, how- 
ever, of the uplands is superior and safe pasture ground, with occa- 
sional large tracts of moss ; and the soil of the haughs, along the 
lower parts of the river Helmsdale, is formed of deposits of mossy 
earth, mixed with particles of decomposed conglomerate rock and 

Meteorology. — Notwithstanding the inland situation and moun- 
tainous character of this parish, the climate in the valley of Kil- 
donan does not vary much from that of the coast-lying parishes of 
Sutherland ; but the extremes of cold and heat are perhaps greater 
than along the sea coast. In winter, the high parts of Kildonan 
are often visited with snow, when rain alone falls in the less inland 
districts ; and when there is a general and great fall of snow, it is 
heavier, and lies longer in the interior than on the coast. The 
winter storms are also of greater violence on the exposed high 
grounds, and are there generally most tempestuous and severe. 
Frost appears early in autumn, even in the sheltered strath, and 
frequently, at that period of the year, the dawn of day, which is 
accompanied by, and discloses a slight hoar frost, formed during 
the night-time, is followed by a brilliant meridian sun, which is op- 
pressive by its heat The east wind is the coldest, and with it 
the heaviest falls of rain occur. Of late years, the aurora borealis, 
or *' the merry dancers," as the meteor is called here, has been 
unusually frequent, chiefly from the month of July to January. 
It is often seen moving in upright luminous lines from west to 
east, which, when they attain their greatest brilliancy, suddenly 
become dim, and, as if formed of revolving columns, with alter- 
nate bright and dark sides, these shining lines again suddenly ap- 
pear with an irregular glimmer, which increases in silvery bright- 
ness, until it becomes a light of great splendour. This alternate 
fading and reappearing of these coruscations continues until what 


appear to be the revolving columns, disappear in the eastern ho* 
rizon^ under the earth's shade. 

This parish is particularly healthy, and there are no distem- 
pers which can be said to be prevalent among the inhabitants. 
Rheumatic pains sometimes affect aged people ; but these pro- 
bably arise from sudden changes from heat to cold, and from 
inattention to the due regulation of their clothing in the win- 
ter season. Fevers have been of late years unknown; and in 
183^, when malignant cholera raged at Helmsdale, at the foot 
of the strath, and within nine miles of the church of Kildonan, 
no case of that mysterious and fatal disease occurred in the pa- 
rish. Consumption, ague, and cutaneous eruptions are all un- 
known. Apothecaries' drugs are almost never called for ; and the 
inhabitants generally, having a sufficiency of substantial food, com- 
fortable dwelling-houses, and being of temperate and active habits, 
enjoy uninterrupted health, and a buoyancy of spirits which gives 
promise of long life. 

Hydrography, — The river Helmsdale or Hie is the leading 
stream in the parish, through which it runs a course of upwards of 
twenty miles. It receives its waters from some lakes in the upper 
parts of the parish, and from many mountain-streams and torrents 
which swell its stream in all parts of its course. After leaving 
this parish, the river has a* run of more than two miles in the pa< 
rish of Loth, until it enters the sea at Helmsdale, where its mouth 
forms the harbour of that village. The upper district of Kildonan 
is remarkable for the number and size of its lakes. Loch-na-cuen 
is one of the largest of them, and is ornamented with two or three 
small islands, and several winding bays. It has char and other 
varieties of trout, but is considered rather an indifferent angling 
lake. Loch'leam-na^lavan lies between the two mountains, Ben 
Griam-more and Ben Griam-beg, and has trout of different va- 
rieties, of the largest size of any lake in th^ district. There are 
also a great many char in its waters, but they are of a small size. 
This is an excellent angling lake, particularly with a south wind. 
Loch Badanloch and Lochinruar are also large lakes, and abound 
in trout and char. Loch-ari-clinj/^ Loch-ascaig^ Lochan-ganuh^ 
Loch-altan-feam^ Loch-cor-na^maugh^ Loch-na^moin^ Loch-na- 
clar^ Loch Truderacaigj Loch Cuilliey and Loch Leiven^ are all 
likewise in the upper parts of the parish, and all abound with 
trout, and many of them with char ; but it is somewhat remarka- 
ble that pike have never been found in any of these lakes, nor, in- 
deed, in any of the numerous waters in the county of Sutherland. 



Mineral springs rise in many parts of the parish ; but it is believ- 
ed that they are all chalybeate. There is one of superior quality 
at Achnamoin ; another near the manse; one at Caen; and one 
at the foot of Ben Uary. 

Geology. — The geology of this extensive parish has not been 
minutely examined or described. The mountain ranges are, it is 
believed, all primitive rocks, among which gneiss and mica- 
slate predominate, while rocks of syenite, porphyry, and large- 
granular granite, occur in many parts. Several years ago, a 
rounded piece of native gold, weighing rather more than half an 
ounce, was found in the bed of the Bum of Kildonan, a rapid 
mountain stream ; but although this discovery induced many other 
searches to be made among the loose gravel and pebbles in the 
bed of that and other adjoining streams, no additional particle of 
the precious metal has been found. 

Zoology. — The most elegant of all our native wild animals, the 
red-deer (Cervus Elaphusy) "destined to embellish the forest, and 
enliven the solitudes of nature," still ranges in many parts of this 
parish, which anciently formed part of the great deer forest of 
Dirrie Chatt This admired animal is now scarce in most parts 
of the Highlands; but amidst the solitary recesses of the great 
mountains, along the boundary lines of this parish, the red-deer, in 
considerable herds, still find protection^ and during the storms of 
winter, they traverse the lower parts of the parish, in search of 
food and shelter. Deer stalking has, of late years, been revived 
with great ardour in this district, and in the few other remote parts 
of the Highlands where the stag is now to be met with ; and the 
red-deer of Sutherland are the stateliest and fattest of their kind.* 
Since the extirpation of the wolf from this neighbourhood, which 
only occurred about 1 50 years ago, the fox has been the most ob- 
noxious wild animal in the parish. His wiles, however, have been 
of little avail to him since the introduction of sheep-farming ; for 
the united hostility of fox-hunters and shepherds has almost clear- 
ed the whole parish of foxes. The wild cat is occasionally met 
with, and is a particularly fierce and desperate animal ; so much 
so that it has been known to spring at an unarmed assailant, who 
could not instantly kill it, when excluded from other means of 
escape. The otter also frequents the numerous waters in the 

*' From the accounts that have been sent me from the various forests in Scot« 
land, I am inclined to think that the average weight of the best deer in Sutherland 
is superior to that of the other forests. It reaches about fifteen stone Dutch, linking 
the offal ; and stags are occasionally killed of seventeen stone ; and in the forest of 
Ben Hope, of a somewhat larger site.** Scrope's Art of Oeer Sulking, page 10. 

KlLDONAN. 139 

parish, but he is by no means a stationary animal, and wanders 
over wide tracts of country, from one stream to another. The 
polecat, the weasel, the mountain hare, and the mole are like- 
wise met with. Sheep of the Cheviot kind, which equal in 
the quahty and weight of the fleece, and the value of the 
carcass, the Cheviot stocks from which they were originally ob- 
tained, occupy the whole pasture grounds of the parish ; and the 
shepherd's dog must not be omitted, for without this faithful and 
tractable animal, it would be impossible to conduct sheep-farming in 
the successful manner now done. The first of these dogs were 
obtained from the borders ; but there is now a cross between them 
and the country colley dog, which is more valuable than the pure 
breed, and excels the southern dog in sagacity and hardiness. 
Birds of prey are numerous. The common eagle {Falco albiciU 
/a), the raven (Corvus corax)^ the hooded-crow (Corvus comix), 
and some species of the hawk abound. The hills of Kildonan 
have ever been celebrated as among the best grouse ranges in the 
north. The strath is well stocked with black-cock, and the tops 
of the highest mountains with ptarmigan. I'he river Helmsdale 
has a valuable salmon-fishery, which is fished under the direct con- 
trol of the landlord, in a manner the best calculated, in all respects, 
to protect the spawning fish and the smolts, and which it is expect-^ 
ed will elicit, beyond doubt, the success of the liberal system had 
recourse to, over the former close and severe mode of fishing. 
The lakes, already referred to, abound in trout and char; and 
lamprey eels are said to ascend the river Helmsdale about the 
month of June. The fresh water muscle (Mytilus anatinus) is 
also found in the bed of the river Helmsdale. 

Botany. — The diversity of soil, and the different degrees of al- 
titude and shelter which this parish affords, cover its surface with 
a great variety of plants ; but these are all, with few exceptions, 
common to similar localities throughout the Highlands. The 
haughs and low parts of the strath are verdant with succulent 
herbs and the finer varieties of grasses ; and here the birch, the 
mountain-ash, the hazel, 'aspen, and white willow, ornament the 
banks of the river, and some of the sloping sides of the hills. The 
mosses have their peculiar plants, of which the cotton grass (Erio^ 
pJiorurn) is the most conspicuous and most valuable. The exten- 
sive mountain sides are chiefly covered with heather and ling ; and 
the few rare plants which have been observed are among the Al- 
pine tribe on the highest hills, of which Arbutus alpinoy and the 
cloudberry, fBubus cham^morusjj are the most abundant. A 


great part of the parish was at a remote j^eriod covered with forests 
of stately pines, which have all perished without any contemporary 
account existing of the c^use or manner of their destruction. Con- 
sequently, conflicting causes have been assigned for the total ab- 
sence of the native fir in this part of the Highlands ; but the ge- 
nerally received belief is, that the old trees died from natural decay 
when at maturity, their trunks being still dug out of the bogs in 
great numbers ; and that from the decomposition of their leaves 
and branches originated the growth of moss, which has now com- 
pletely altered the surface soil, and rendered it unfit for the growth 
of the pine tribe. 

II. — Civil Histohy. 
Some of the events and localities mentioned in the northern 

Sagas and in the Orcades of Torfaeus are supposed, from an at- 
tentive examination of the narratives, to apply to this parish. 
There exists ample evidence, that after the final departure of the 
northern invaders, the whole of this parish was part of the ancient 
earldom of Sutherland ; and consequently, the annals of that po- 
tent family embrace the subsequent historical events in the parish, 
several of which are described in Sir Robert Gordon's History of 
the Earls of Sutherland. The charter-room of Dunrobin Castle, 
— which is believed to have the most complete series of title-deeds 
and other invaluable muniments, from the thirteenth century to the 
present time, of any private charter-chest in Scotland,— contains 
written evidences, the most authentic, of the general correctness 
of that remarkable local history, in regard to the state of pos- 
session of the lands in the parish at diflerent periods, and similar 
facts. In the sixteenth century, the chiefs and a great body of the 
clan Gun settled in this parish, which, since then, until a late pe- 
riod, has been their chief place of residence ; and, as no connected 
account of them has ever been written, the following original no- 
tice of the clan Gun, prepared with great care from the only au- 
thentic sources relating to them that now exist, is here given in 
as condensed a form as the matter would admit of, — in order to 
suit the prescribed limits of this parish report. 

The Clan Guru — The clan Gun have at all times been coniSi- 
dered throughout the North Highlands as descended from the 
Norwegian Kings of Man ; and Lochlin^ the Gaelic name for an- 
cient Scandinavia, or, perhaps, in a more limited acceptation, for 
Denmark, is still named bj the few natives of the Highlands who 

w recollect the traditions of their fathers, — as the parent coun^^ 
of the Guns, the Macleods and the Gillanders. According 


to the Chronicle of Man, published with Camden's Britannia in 
] 586, Godred or Godfred, sumamed Crovauy and son of Harold 
the Blacky of the royal family of Norway, was the first King of 
Man, and his sovereignty appears to have extended over a large 
portion, if not the whole, of the Western Isles. His reign is sup- 
posed to have commenced about the year 1077. The fifth King 
of Man, from Godfred the first King, and descended from him, 
was Olave, who, succeeding his father when very young, was de- 
prived of his kingdom by a natural brother named Reginald, and 
had the Island of Lewis assigned to him. After severe and pro- 
tracted struggles, Olave succeeded in recovering his kingdom, 
and died King of Man in Peel Castle, 18th June 1237. He 
had been thrice married, and by his third wife, Christina, daughter 
of Farquhar Earl of Ross, King Olave had three sons : 1. Guin 
or Gun, the ancestor of the clan Gun ; 2. Leoid, Loyd, or -Leod, 
from whom are descended the Macleods; and 3. Leaundris, 
from whom were the clan Landers, or Gillanders of Ross-shire,^ — 
but many of this last clan afterwards assumed the name of Ross. 
At this period, the Earls of Ross were very powerful in the north 
of Scotland ; and, besides being masters of the present district of 
Ross, they held extensive tracts of country in several parts of the 
west coast, and along the Caithness shores. The three grand- 
children above-named, .of Farquhar Earl of Ross, appear to have 
been provided for by that potent earl about the middle of the 
thirteenth century ; — Guin or Gun having been settled in Caith- 
ness, where the Earl's authority at that period was considerable. 
Leod obtained Glenelg from him, and by marriage with the 
daughter of a Danish knight, Macraild Armine, also obtained 
Miginish, Bracadale, Durinish, Dunvegan, Lindell, Vaterness, 
and part of Troterness, in the Isle of Sky ; while Leander settled 
in the midst of his grandfather's territories in Ross. 

The particular lands in Caithness which were originally acquired 
by the clan Gun cannot, at this distant period of time, be satis- 
factorily traced ; but the earliest castle or stronghold of their 
chief in that quarter, was the Castle of Halbury, at Easter Clythe, 
or as it is often called Crowner GurCs Castle, which, like almost 
all the other old castles in Caithness, was situate on a precipitous 
and nearly detached rock, overhanging the sea, and, except at 
one side, surrounded by it. 

The clan Gun continued to extend and occupy their possessions 
in Caithness, until about the middle of the fifteenth century, when, 
in consequence of their deadly feuds with the Keiths of Caithnes"* 


(who had obtained a settlement in that county, by the marriage 
of one of the Keiths with Marion Cheyne, a Caithness heiress, 
in the fourteenth century) and other neighbouring clans, the Guns 
found it necessary to establish their chief, and a strong detachment 
of the clan, in the adjoining county of Sutherland, where they 
obtained the protection of the Earls of Sutherland, and from them 
got possession of several lands in the parish of Kildonan and else- 
where. The history of the clan during these early centuries, as 
collected from tradition, and partly borne out by detached narra- 
tives in Sir Robert Gordon's history, is replete with incidents, 
which, in the present age, have more of the character of wild ro- 
mance than of reality, and exhibits, in many startling details, the 
ferocity and implacable fury which distinguished the feuds of the 
clans in the remote Highlands,* even down to near the close of 
the seventeenth century. This report does not admit of length- 
ened narratives of these ancient feuds ; but one instance may be 
given of the desperate manner in which they were conducted, by 
very briefly narrating the best traditional account that has been 
obtained of the following bloody and treacherous rencounter be- 
tween the Keiths and the Guns. The meeting of the parties, 
and the slaughter of the Guns, are, by Sir Robert Gordon, stated 
to have taken place in St Tyr'^s Chapel, — an old religious edifice 
on the sea coast of Caithness, and on the walls of which he says 
the blood of the slain might be seen in his time ; — but the tradi- 
tion of the Highlands says that this perfidious affair occurred in 
the interior of the country, and in the open air, in Strathmore of 

Towards the end of the fifteenth century, the chief of the Clan- 
Gun was George Gun, who lived in feudal dignity in his then im- 
pregnable castle of Halbury; but he was better known as the 
Croumer Guriy or, as he was called by the Highlanders, — " N*m 
Braistach^more" from a great broach which he wore as the badge 
or cognizance of his oflice of crowner. He had a deadly feud 
with the chief of the Keiths, and having met in St Tyre's chapel 
for the purpose of effecting a reconciliation, but without success, they 
there solemnly agreed to decide their quarrel, if they could not do 
so amicably on a future day, by equal combat between twelve sons 

* Sir Robert Gordon, whose history was written in 1630, thus alludes to << the 
inveterat deidlie feud betuein the clan Gun and the Slaight-ean- Aberigh,** (a 
branch of the Mackays). He remarks : ** The long, the many, the horrible en- 
counters which happened between these two trybcs, with the bloodshed and infinit 
spoils committed in every pairt of the diocy of Cattcynes by them and iheir associats, 
aio of so disordered and troublesome memorie," that he passes them over. — P. 174. 


or relatives of each chieftain. This compact was concluded by 
mutual vows, accompanied with religious rites within the chapel» 
that the meeting would take place in a solitary part of the country, 
where no interruption could occur, and the escort of each leader 
was fixed at twelve armed horsemen. The crowner had been twice 
married, and had a numerous family of sons ; but some of them 
resided in Sutherland, and it was also agreed that he should form 
his party there, and proceed into Caithness with them by the 
Strathmore route, while the Keiths would move, on the appoint- 
ed day, towards the confines of Sutherland, and in the same di- 
rection ; so that the two parties would meet in a retired dis- 
trict, remote from any chance of being disturbed. The chiefs, 
each followed by twelve horses and their riders, came within sight 
of each other on the appointed route, and soon tliereafter met at 
a bum called Alt-na-gawn, below the glut of Strathmore. The 
crowner and the leader of the Keiths approached each other in full 
armour ; but it was soon discovered by the Guns, that there were 
two riders on every horse in the party of the Keiths, and consequent- 
ly the latter party had twenty-four men opposed to the twelve fol- 
lowers of the crowner. This vile stratagem instantly revealed to 
the Guns that their destruction, by unfair means, was determined 
upon. They scorned, notwithstanding the great odds against them, 
to retreat before their enemies the Keiths ; and both parties dis- 
mounting, the huge double-handed sword, and other formidable 
weapons of the period used in close combat^ were furiously and 
destructively wielded, amidst horrid imprecations, and remorseless 
vows of each clan's never-dying vengeance, which raised to mad- 
ness the rage of the combatants. 

The Guns fought most desperately, but could not withstand 
the great odds that opposed them ; and after a long continu- 
ed struggle, the survivors on both sides were so much exhaust- 
ed, that the combat was mutually dropt, — the Keiths being 
so far the victors as to leave the field with their banner display- 
ed, and to be able to carry with them their slain companions ; 
while in the ranks of the Guns, the crowner and seven of his party 
were killed, and the remaining five were all severely wounded. 
The Keiths proceeded to Dilred Castle, in Strathmore, then oc- 
cupied by Sutherland of Dilred, where they were hospitably en- 
tertained. The five surviving Guns, who were all sons of the 
crowner, also retired, but tarried at another stream, since then call- 
ed Alt-Torquil, after Torquil Gun, one of the survivors, who there 
dressed the wounds of his brothers. Towards evening, Henry- 


beg, the youngest of the surviving brothers of the Guns, proposed 
that they should follow the Keiths, and endeavour to obtain revenge, 
even by stratagem such as the Keiths had recourse to ; but his 
brothers considered such a step as leading to their certain destruc- 
tion. Henry, however, could not be restrained from his purpose, 
and swore that he never would rest until he should kill a Keith, 
and recover possession of his father's sword, helmet, shirt of mail, 
and broach of office, which the Keiths had taken off the dead 
body of the crowner. Two of the brothers were so severely 
wounded that they could not move to any great distance, but the 
other two accompanied Henry, who arrived at Dilred Castle soon 
after nightfall. On approaching the castle, its wooden windows 
or shutters were found open, and around a large 6re in the low- 
est apartment, the survivors of the Keiths w*ere quaffing bumpers 
of ale, and Henry, who went close to one of the windows, heard 
them narrate, with boisterous delight, the losses sustained by the 
Guns. The chief of the Keiths, not apprehensive of any danger, 
accidentally approached the window where Henry stood, and the 
latter then bent his bow, and in another instant his arrow pierced 
the chieftain's heart; Henry at the same time boldly accompany- 
ing the deadly flight of his arrow with the exclamation (afterwards 
used in the North Highlands as a proverb) of " The Gun's com- 
pliments to Keith." * The old chief dropped down dead ; a panic 
seized the other Keiths ; and the three Guns, having darted for- 
ward to the door of the castle, slew some of the 6rst persons who 
ventured out by it ; but finding that they could not retain their po- 
sition long, Henry and his two brothers retired silently under co- 
ver of the darkness of the night, and hurried back to the assistance 
of the other brothers, who had been unable to accompany them. 
The crowner, f thus killed by the Keith, was, according to Sir 
Robert Gordon, " a great commander in Catteynes in his tyme, 
and wes one of the greatest men in that countrey; because when 
he flourished there was no Earle ofi* Catteynes ; that earldom being 
yit in the King's hands, and wes thereafter given to William Sinck- 

* This tradition was obtained in Gaelic, and Henry's cxclarration of** lomachgnr 
n*Guinach gu Kaigh,** is more emphatic in that language than in any translation of 
the words. 

f Crownefy Croxntare, Crounal^ according to Dr Jamieson, was first an officer to 
whom it belonged to attach all persons, agsdnst whom there was an accusation in 
matters pertaining to the Crown ; and the distinction between the office of crowner 
and that of sheriff was anciently thus explained : ** All attachments pcrteines to the 
Cfwvner, quher the accuser makes mention, in his accusation, of the breaking of the 
King's peace. Otherwaies, gif he makes na mention thereof, the attachment pertcnes 
to the shircf/' 2dly, the crowner was he who had the charge of the troops raised in 
one county. The first certain proof of the existence of the office of crowner occurs in 
the reign of David II. 


ler, the second son of William, Earl of Orkney, by his second 
wife : which William, Earl of Catteynes, wes slain at Flowden.'* * 
The Earldom of Caithness, at the period here referred to, may be 
said to have been, in one respect, in the King's hands ; for although^ 
after the termination of the Norwegian line of Earls of Orkney 
and Caithness in 1331, the Earl of Strathern was also Earl of 
Caithness for a short time ; the succeeding Earls of the Sinclair 
family claimed the Caithness title, while they also held the Earl- 
dom of Orkney under the kings of Denmark, and their allegiance 
to a foreign power divested them of their privileges as Earls of 
Caithness under the Crown of Scotland. This state of matters, no 
doubt, occasioned the establishment of a crownership in Caithness, 
which office was vested in the person of the chief of the Guns, who 
was afterwards killed by the Keiths. 

Five of the crowner*s sons survived him. The eldest, James, 
from whom the patronymic of MacKeamish^ the son of James^ 
is derived, which distinguished his sou and all the subsequent 
chiefs of the clan, succeeded his father, and resided in Sutherland, 
as all his successors have done, their principal dwelling-house hav- 
ing been at Killernan, in the parish of Kildonan, until it was de- 
stroyed accidentally by fire, about the year 1690. From one of 
the sons of the crowner, named William, are descended the Wil- 
sons of Caithness, and from Henry, the Hendersons. Another 
son, Robert, who was killed with his father, left issue, and from 
them were the Gun Robsons, who afterwards appear in the annals 
of Caithness, and from the issue of another son, John, also killed 
by the Keiths, were the Guns M^Ekns of Caithness. 

It was in the time of this crowner Gun that Hugh Macdonald 
of Sleat, third son of Alexander Earl of Ross, married a lady of 
the clan Gun, who is supposed to have been the crowner's daugh- 
ter. By this lady, Macdonald of Sleatf " had a son, Donald, 
called Gallach, from being fostered X by his mother's relations in 

* Sir Robert Gordon*s History, page 92. 

t Gregory *s Western Highlands and Isles, P^^gc ^* 

X The fostering of the children of great families, in remote but comparatively se- 
cure parts of the interior of the Highlands, was a very common practice in the north 
of Scotland, down to the beginning of the last century ; and the alliance or affection- 
ate tie thus formed often proved to be stronger than that flowing from blood -relation- 
ship. Sir R. Gordon refers to this result in another case of fostering among the clan 
Gunn. He says, ** In the moneth of December, 1622 yeirs. Sir John Sinclair of 
Greinland and Ratter, (the Earle of Catteynes, his brother,) died in Catteynes. He 
was a great favourer of the Clan- Gun, with whom he had been fostered and bred in 
his infdncie, which is accompted the strictest poynt of amitie and friendship among 
all the Hielanders of the kingdome of Scotland, preferring oftentymcs their fosters 
and foster -brethren unto their parents, and neircst kinred ; they will follow and de- 


Caithness, who afterwards became the heir of the family, and from 
whom the present Lord Macdonald is descended." 

James Gun was succeeded as chieftain by his son William, 
with whom originated the patronymic of Mackeamishy i. e. the son 
of James. William, the first Mackeamish, signalized himself in 
several conflicts in the north, and his fame as a successful and 
brave leader of his clan, has been celebrated in some Gaelic verses 
and songs still existing. Alexander Gun of Killernan was the se- 
cond, and his son William Gun, the third Mackeamish. John 
Gun of Killernan and Navidale was the fourth, and Alexander 
Gun, also of the same designation, was the fifth Mackeamish. 
This last chief had two sons, Donald and George, and was suc- 
ceeded bv his eldest son Donald, who was the sixth Mackeamish. 
Alexander Gun, the son of Donald, was the seventh, and Alex- 
ander's son, William Gun, the eighth Mackeamish ; but this last 
chief, who was an officer in the army, being killed in action in 
India, without leaving issue, and the other male descendants of 
Donald, the sixth Mackeamish, being extinct, the chieftainship de- 
volved on the now deceased Hector Gunn,* the great-grandson of 
Greorge, the second son of Alexander, the fifth Mackeamish, to 
whom he was served as nearest male heir on Slst May 1803 ; 
and George Gunn, Esq., Rhives, in Sutherland, the only son of 
the said Hector Gunn, is now the chief of the clan Gunn, and the 
tenth Mackeamish. 

Land-Otoner. — His Grace the Duke of Sutherland is proprie- 
tor of the whole parish, which has been part of the ancient Earl- 
dom of Sutherland from the earliest time to which the national 
records go back. 

Antiquities. — There are the remains of several circular or Pict- 
ish towers in this parish, which have outlasted in their great anti- 
quity, all traditionary accounts that may have once existed in re- 
gard to their erection, their uses, or history. f There are also 

pend upon them befor their natural lords and masters.'* Seyeral formal agreements 
for the fostering of children are still preserved in the north ; and the foster.fkther, as 
well as the father of the child, makes a gift of cattle, which, with their whole increase, 
were to be kept as the property of the foster-child, until he arriyed at man*s estate. 

* The name Gun had been, until the middle of last century, spelt with one n, but 
since then, a second n has been added, in order to distinguish the name from the word 
ffuttf a musket,—- a comparatively modem word, which has slid into the English lan- 
guage, in a manner which puzzles all etymologists. The name Gun appears to have 
been the same as the Welsh Gwyrie^ and the name Gawne, still common in the Isle 
of Man. 

f lliese Pictish towers seem to have been more numerous in the principal straths 
in Sutherland, than in any other district of Scotland ; and the writer of this report 
has visited the ruins of 65 of them in that county. There are some others whicli he 


many barrows or tumuli scattered over the parish ; and in one not 
far from the manse, which was opened by workmen in search of gra- 
▼el, a coffin formed of plain flags was discovered, in which were 
mouldermg human bones. One of these tumuli, in the shape of a 
well-proportioned cone, and called Knock* nreachy^ is situate close 
to the manse, and also an upright stone called Clachna-heudh. 

III. — Population. 

In the year 1801, 








The decrease is accounted for by the change that occurred in the 
rural economy of the parish, by the substitution of Cheviot sheep 
for Highland cattle, between the years 181 1 and 1821. The sys- 
tem of small holdings and subletting, previously common in the 
parish, was thereby altered ; and no part of the parish being adapt- 
ed for new settlements, the bulk of the population was settled in 
the coast-side parishes ; and, in particular, they resorted to the 
village of Helmsdale and its neighbourhood, which is within two 
miles of the southern boundary of the parish, forming part of the 
same district of country, and where the increase of the population 
far exceeds the decrease in the interior. 

IV. — Industry. 
Almost the whole of the parish is occupied as sheep farms. 
The number of sheep grazed, all of the Cheviot breed, is esti- 
mated at 18,000 head, and they are divided among six tenants of 
separate farms. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Helmsdale is the nearest town, distant two miles from the south 
boundary of the parish, and nine miles from the manse and church. 
There is a good road leading from Helmsdale, along the whole 
extent of the strath, to Bighouse and Melvich, on the north coast ;. 
and another road from within one mile of the manse, running 
southward across the Crask ; a stormy and elevated hill dividing 
the strath from the head of Glen Loth, until it joins the parlia- 
mentary road on the east coast of the county at Loth-beg. 

has not yet seen ; and he is inclined to think, that a complete inspection of the whole 
of them, and accurate details of each tower, so far as their ruinous condition will ad- 
mit of, including not only their size, and interior arrangements, and their situation 
in regard to marked localities, and their vicinity in some cases to each other ; but also 
erery deviation from any part of their peculiar, and generally uniform construction, 
would, in some degree, remove the obscurity that at present attends the contempla- 
tion of these interesting relics of the oldest stone buildings in our native land, and 
which, when complete, must have exhibited, in singular combination, the ingenuity 
of design, and laborious industry of a people somewhat advanced in the arts of civili- 
sation, with the rudeness of workmanship peculiar to savage life. 


Ecclesiastical State. — By Bishop Gilbert Murray's charter, i/i- 
ter 1222 and 1245, reconstituting the chapter of the bishopric of 
Caithness, which included the whole county of Sutherland, the 
chapter consisted of nine canons, of whom five were dignitaries. 
The Abbot of Scone was appointed one of the abbots, and had the 
church of " Keldurunach" assigned to him, under the provision, 
that when absent, he would have another to minister for him. 
The Abbots of Scone continued in charge of this church until the 
Reformation ; and the foundation of " Tea'n Abb," or the Ab- 
bott's House is still seen to the west of the manse, while the fi- 
gure of a human head, rudely carved in stone, and called the Jb- 
bofs Headf is preserved in the garden wall of the manse. The 
patronage of the parish has, since the Reformation, been vested 
in the Sutherland family. The extent of the glebe is between 13 
and 14 acres, and the minister has besides the grazing of 60 sheep. 
The former stipend of 40 bolls of victual is now converted, and 
paid by the heritor with the former money stipend of L. 30, lOs. 
Id. ; and there is also an addition of L. 70 from Exchequer. The 
manse is in good repair, and the church is suitable for the congre- 
gation ; the whole inhabitants of the parish being of the church of 

Education. — The parish school is situate near the manse, but, 
owing to the great extent of the parish, many families are prevent- 
ed from sending their children to it Several private teachers, 
however, are employed, and exclusively paid by the inhabitants ; 
and the parental duty of providing for the education of youth ap- 
pears, in this parish, to acquire strength in proportion to the diffi- 
culties to be overcome in exercising it. The amount of the pa- 
rochial schoolmaster's salary is the minimum. 

Poor. — The few indigent persons in this parish are treated with 
kindness by their more independent and fortunate neighbours ; 
and the easy access they all have to fuel, and the non-exactment 
of rent for their small houses, make the moderate allowances from 
the poor funds which they receive of far more value to them, than 
the same sums would be in more densely inhabited parishes. 
These funds are derived from Sunday collections, and an annual 
donation from the Sutherland family. The average number of 
poor of all classes for the years 1835, 1836, and 1837, is 42; 
average amount of church collections during these years, L.9 ; 
average amount of mortifications, &c. during these years, L.4. 

February 1840. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 

Name. — The etymology of the name of this parish is not cor- 
rectly known ; and though there are various conjectures on this 
point, not one of them seems in any degree satisfactory. 

Extent and Boundaries. — The 6gure of the parish is irregular; 
in length it extends from the east coast of the county into the in- 
terior to the summit of Ben Ormin, a distance of about 24 miles 
from south-east to north-west; its breadth on the coast side is 
4 miles, and varies from 6 to 8 miles inland. It is bounded on 
the south-west by the parish of Golspie ; on the west by Rogart ; 
on the north by Kildonan ; on the north-east by Loth, and on the 
south-east by the German ocean. 

Topographical Appearances. — The interior is in many parts 
very picturesque, being distinguished from the more tame scenery 
along the coast, by a variety of mountains, glens, and lakes, and 
adorned by natural and planted woods. The prospect is much ad- 
mired, when entering the glen at Killean. The Carrol Rock, an 
abrupt precipice overhanging Loch Brora, — Ben Clibrig, Ben Or- 
min, and Ben Horn, at once break on the view, which, with the 
reflection in the lake of the rock of Carrol, and the sloping sides 
of the hills covered with plantations and natural woods, present a 
singular and magnificent panorama. 

About nine miles from the coast. Strath Brora divides into two 
valleys of a still more upland character, at a place called Ascoile. 
The one to the left is skirted with many clumps and a few exten- 
sive ranges of natural wood ; and the other valley, or rather glen, 
to the north is wild and deep. At this point also, the parish assumes 
a more sterile and Highland aspect, being of a bleak and heathy 
character, with extensive ranges of moors and moss, intersected by 

• Drawn up by George Gunn, Esq. of Rhives. 


nviinerous small rivulets ; and still more inland, several lofty hills, 
forming part of the high and stormy centre range of Sutherland 
mountains, mark the boundaries of the parish to the west and 
north. Greatly different from this elevated district, the low grounds 
of the parish along the sea-coast contain well-cultivated farms, sur- 
rounded by several townships occupied by small tenants, and com- 
posed of neat stone cottages, — these farms connected together by 
excellent and well kept roads, which intersect the cultivated parts 
of the parish in all directions. The elevation of two of the highest 
mountains above the level of the sea, as ascertained by measure- 
ment, is as follows, — Ben Ormin 2306 feet; Ben Horn 1712 feet. 

The only cave deserving notice is a small one of peculiar con- 
struction above the Bridge of Brora ; it seems to have been form- 
ed by the action of the water on a soft portion of the rock, before 
the river became imbedded in its present low level. 

The coast is low and sandy, and has a breadth of sand hills ex- 
tending about a quarter of a mile from the shore, and covered with 
bent, and where not broken, with rich pasture. This sandy belt 
is succeeded by the arable land occupied by the letters or small 
tenants, and the fine farms of Inver Brora and Clynelish ; and be- 
hind them are the hills of the interior division. 

Temperature. — Along the sea coast, the weather is the same as 
in the neighbouring parishes, with the exception, perhaps, of the 
parish of Golspie, which is better sheltered by plantations, and not 
so exposed to storms from the mountains in the centre of the 
CQunty as the low grounds of this parish are, when the wind blows 
down the opening of Strath Brora. The north-west gales blow 
with great force down this strath, the high hills on each side form- 
ing a natural funnel, and the blasts spread along the low grounds, 
often causing much injury to the crops. The soil being of a 
light, sharp, gravelly quality, occasional long droughts materially 
affect vegetation ; but it revives rapidly on being refreshed by the 
copious showers, which seldom fail to come in time to save it. 

The climate may be considered on the whole excellent, of which 
the healthy appearance and the longevity of the people furnish the 
best demonstration. The prevailing winds are east or north-east, 
west or south-west. The east wind is sometimes damp, cold, and 
penetrating, and the west wind excessively violent. 

H^droffraphi/.^Loch Brora is the principal sheet of water in 
the parish. It is about four miles long, and varies from a quarter 
to half-a-mile in breadth, being contracted at two points, and has 

CLYNE. 151 

the appearance of three lakes when seen from a short distance. 
Extensive fir plantations on each side, with the bold precipitous 
Carrol rock, and the mansion-house and offices of Kilcalmkill, form 
a beautiful and interesting scene in fine weather. 

There is a small island near the lower end of Loch Brora, of 
which Sir Robert Gordon says, in his History of the Earldom of 
Sutherland, that " the Erie of Southerland hes a delectable ha- 
bitation, and pleasant for hunting of red-deer and roes in the 
woods on both sides of the loch. This island is distant thrie or four 
myles from the burgh of Broray." 

Among the smaller lakes. Loch Tubernach, north of Clyne 
church, and the source of the Clyne Milton Burn, was, at one 
time, famous for large trout of superior flavour ; but they have fallen 
off in quality, of late years. 

The river Brora has its source in the forest of Ben Clibrig, and, 
passing through a part of Rogart, it enters this parish about two 
miles above Sciberscross, and joins the Black Water a mile below 
that place. This latter river rises in Ben Ormin, and runs through 
a long extent of deep moors, which give a dark tinge to the water, 
and from which it no doubt derives its name. It receives several 
tributaries in its course, and runs down a deep rocky channel for 
about five miles before its junction with the Brora, when the 
united streams flow through rich meadows for half-a-mile, and 
fall into Loch Brora. 

There is a cascade on the Black Water, near Balnakyle, very 
magnificent when the river is in flood ; and another still more strik- 
ing and romantic at Kilcalmkill, which is visited by most tourists ; 
also a cascade well worthy of notice on a small burn near the 
manse of Clyne, where the water falls into a deep ravine over a 
rock sixty feet. high. 

Geology and Mineralogy. — Sir Humphry Davy, when he visit- 
ed this county in 1812, left a manuscript at Dunrobin Castle, de- 
scribing the mineral productions of part of Sutherland, wherein he 
stated, with reference to this parish, " that the secondary rocks 
occupy but a small space, and are probably incumbent on the red 
sandstone or breccia ; that they occur in regular strata, but their 
arrangement is very much disturbed. They appear to have been 
originally deposited or formed parallel to the horizon ; but in most 
places, this parallelism has been disturbed either by the subsidence 
or elevation of parts of the strata, so that there are frequent faults 
or abruptions of the different rocks, which have given to the diffe- 
rent parts of the strata different inclinations. 


^^ The true secondary strata of Sutherland occupy an extent of 
six or seven miles, filling up a sort of basin between the transition 
hills in the neighbourhood of Dunrobin, and those in' the parish 
of Loth. The upper stratum is a sandstone of different degrees 
of hardness, and composed of silicious sand, cemented by silicious 
matter. Below this, occurs an aluminous shale, containing pyri- 
tous matter, carbonaceous matter, the remains of marine animals, 
and of land vegetables. Beneath this shale, or rather alternating 
with it, a stratum occurs, containing, in some of its parts, calcare- 
ous matter, and passing into limestone; but in general consisting 
of a silicious isand, agglutinated by calcareous cement The coal 
measures occupy the lowest part of this secondary district which 
has been explored." 

Coal had been worked near the mouth of the River Brora so 
far back as 1573, in the time of Lady Jane Gordon, Countess of 
Sutherland, and at various subsequent periods; but that work 
was labandoned many years ago. The late Duke of Sutherland, 
with the munificence which characterized all his improvements, 
expended L. 16,000 in sinking a new pit, and for the necessary 
buildings, on the north side of the river, half a mile above the 
bridge, where a scam was found from 3 feet 2 inches to 3 feet 8 
inches thick, at a depth of 250 feet from the surface. The coal was 
conveyed to the harbour on a railway 800 yards in length. Four 
large salt-pans were also erected, which cost L.3327, and the salt 
produced proved of very superior quality. 

Limestone is found in small detached portions in various places 
on the banks of the River Brora, from the harbour upwards. It 
contains no magnesian earth, and is adulterated only with alumi- 
nous and silicious earths, and oxide of iron. A specimen of it 
was examined by Sir Humphry Davy, from a rock about 100 
yards above the Weir: 20 grains contained 17.3 grains of carbo- 
nate of lime.* 

Zoology. — The animals of this parish are common to most other 
parts of the county. They are, the red-deer, roe, fox, wild-cat, 
polecat, martin, and the stoat or weasel, which becomes white in 
winter, the lesser brown stoat, the brown otter, mole, common 
mouse, field-mouse, lesser field-mouse, Alpine hare, common hare, 
common gray rabbit, Muscovy rat. At no distant period, it was the 
general belief that rats could not exist in the county, and Suther- 

* We understand more detailed accounts of the geology of this parish than that 
given ahove, have been laid before the Werner ian Society by Professor Jameson, and 
by Messrs Murchison and Sedgwick before the Geological Society. 


CLYNE. 153 

land earth was frequently taken to other countries, under the im- 
pression of its efficacy in driving them from any place where the 
earth might be deposited. But a vessel being wrecked near Kin- 
tradwell about thirty years ago, dispelled the cl^lusion, and intro- 
duced the Muscovy rat, which has since multiplied, and spread in 
every direction. The red-deer have become very numerous since 
the plantations on the banks of Loch Brora have grown up to af> 
ford them cover and shelter. Some of these noble animals attain 
a great size, and are often seen congregated in herds. Lord 
Francis Egerton killed one of the stags at this place in 1838, 
which weighed upwards of eighteen stones Dutch weight; and it is 
believed that some of them are now much larger. The foxes and 
other animals of prey were at one time very destructive to stock ; 
but the farmers entered into an association and hired fox-hunters, 
by whose exertions they were nearly extirpated ; at least they were 
so much thinned, as not again to become very formidable. 

One hundred and 6fty different kinds of birds frequent the pa^ 
rish, the most remarkable of which are, the white-tailed eagle, ring 
tailed eagle, peregrine falcon, buzzard, hawk,, wild swan, wild 
goose, blackcock, grouse, ptarmigan. 

The fishes in Loch Brora are, salmon, grilse, salmon trout, 
char, common trout. The salmon begin to ascend the river in 
condition to spawn about the middle of August; the grilse a fort- 
night later. They begin to spawn about the 1st of October, and 
descend as kelts or spent fish in February. The smelts go down' 
in March, continuing to do so till the end of May. The grilses 
commence their ascent in May, varying it from the beginning till 
the end of the month, according as the season maybe early or late. 

The fishes caught on the shores are, cod, ling, haddock, skate, 
turbot, halibut, flounder, whiting, mackerel, mullets, millers, gur- 
nards. The shell-fish are, lobsters, partons or crabs. 

IL — Civil History. 

Sir Robert Gordon's Genealogical History of the Earldom of 
Sutherland, of which there is an old manuscript copy in the libra- 
ry at Dunrobin Castle, contains many notices of this parish, but 
chiefly descriptive of the ancient feuds and combats which used to 
distract the country at that period, and is too voluminous to be in- 
serted here. 

The chief historical event of importance which has taken place 

since the publication of the former report, is the change in the oc- 

.cupation-of the parish, by the removal of the small tenants from the 



interior to the coast side, and which, with its consequences on the 
comforts and habits of the inhabitants, will be noticed hereafter. 

A correct map of the county of Sutherland, on a scale of one 
inch to a mile, wa? completed a few years since at the expense of 
the late Duke of Sutherland ; from which it appears that the sur- 
face of this parish contains 103 square miles, or G5,000 acres im* 
perial measure. 

The Duke of Sutherland is sole land-owner of the parish. The 
property of Kilcalmhill, which belonged for about 300 years to the 
Gordons of Carrol, a highly respectable family connected with 
the Gordon branch of the Earls of Sutherland, was purchased by 
the late Duke about thirty years ago ; also detached portions of the 
estate of Uppat, lying in Clyne ; the place of Uppat, afterwards 
purchased by his Grace, being in the parish of Golspie. 

Parochial Registers, — There is no trace of any parochial regis- 
ter being kept farther'back than the year 1706, and even for some 
time thereafter the strictest accuracy has not been observed. 

Antiquities. — This parish is not remartcable formuch that deserves 
the notice of the antiquarian, and the few scattered remnants that 
can be traced are greatly dilapidated. Castle Cole^ one of those towers 
once so common in the north, is, however, worthy of particular 
notice. It is perhaps the most entire of what are called Pictish 
towers, in this part of Scotland, excepting that of Dornadilla, in 
Strathmore, in the parish of Durness. It is situated on the east 
side of the Black Water, about two miles above its junction with 
the Brora, and must have been held an impregnable place of de- 
fence in its day. The opposite bank is a precipice of 70 feet 
The river running rapidly over a rocky channel, renders it inacces- 
sible on three sides, and the narrow neck which connects it with 
the east bank seems to have been protected by a ditch. The 
building is oblong ; the walls 11 feet thick, without lime or mortar ; 
the diameter inside 22 feet ; the only part of the walls now stand- 
ing is on the south and east sides, about 12 feet high ; the door, 
5 feet high, 3 feet wide, is in this part of the building facing the 
south. There is a space in the wall, on the cast side of this entrance, 
which can be traced round the building, and its height would on- 
ly admit of people to lie or creep in it. This tower must have been 
the stronghold of the chieftain or of the tribe ; and the remains of 
a line of watch-towers, to give warning of any hostile approach, 
may still be traced to the coast. 

Craig Bar, on the south side of Loch Brora, is thus noticed in 
the former Statistical Report. " It is a steep and rocky precipice, 

CLYNE. 155 

fortified with a ditch of circumvallation, every way inaccessible, but 
by a narrow neck of land between it and a neighbouring hill; it 
contains about eight acres of land, and could be easily defended 
against any number of assailants." An ancient cemetery at Kil- 
calmkill, marks where the heroes of those davs rest. The srave of 
the chief, in which large human bones were found, is yet distin- 
guished by four stones and a cover. Various tumuli lie scattered 
over the interior, marking their battle-grounds, and where the slain 
were buried ; but their names and their deeds have passed into 

The next object of antiquity is an artificial island in Loch Bro- 
ra, already alluded to, and which has been correctly described as 
below, in a note to Jhe former Report.* 


The popnlation of the parish has varied little since the year 
1792, owing to the change which has taken place in the system 
of farming, the glens and interior being converted into sheep-walks ; 
the inhabitants being removed to the sea coast, and some of them 
having emigrated to North America. The coal-works com- 
menced in 1812, and caused a considerable increase of the popu- 
lation, which appeared by the census taken in 1821 ; and as they 
ceased to be worked in 1828, the number decreased previous to 
the next census in 1831. 

By tbe census taken m 1702, the population was 16G0 

1801, . . 1643 

1811, . . 1639 

1821, . . 1874 

laSl, . 1711 

1840, . 1756 

• " Tlie figure of the island is an oblong square, consisting of two inferior squa'^cs of 
70 feet diameter. It was dividend into two parts ; one-half appropriated for lodgings 
in time of war ; the other lialf laid out for the advantage of a garden. TI19 walls 
are still pretty high, and ascend perpendicularly from the surface of the water, without 
a vestige uf the island behind them, and are only accessible by two stairs which front 
the south and east; so that with plenty of stores and the fishing of the loch, 
abounding with silmon, trout, and eel, the place was rendered impregnable when 
properly defended. Among many reports of tbe good purposes of this island, there is 
one traditionary story repeated with pleasure by the inhabitants to this day. They tell 
that, on a certain occasion, the neighbourhood was suddenly invaded by a numerous 
army of Caithness men, which they were not prepared to resist. Upon this occasion 
they fled to the island for an asylum, where they were secure from the assaults of the 
enemy. Upon this, the invaders were so enraged, that they attempted darning up 
the narrow mouth of the loch, at which the river breaks out, and had made such pro* 
gress in the work, that the islanders were obliged to take to their boats in the night 
time, to accomplish their escape ; but, l>eing pursued, they would have all perished, 
had it not been for the seasonable assistance of the clan Gun, who had marched from 
Strathulie upon hearing of the danger of their countrymen. The Caithness-men, in 
consequence of tliis assistance, met with a total defeat ; and the part of the river or 
loch, at which they had been employed, retains 10 this day the name of Daman or 
Davan, which signifies a dam." 


The number of families in the parish is 385, and they may be 
distinguished as follows : 

Male heads of fiiinilies, . . 255 

Female heads of families, . . . 130 


Bachelors above 50 years of age, . 7 

Unmarried women above 50 years of age, . 99 

Insane males, • . • '0 

Insane females, . ... 5 

Males under 15 years, - , . 293 

Females under 15 years, . . 282 

Males betwixt 15 and 90 years, . 175 

Females betwixt 15 and 90 years, . 219 

Males betwixt 90 and 50 years, 149 

Females betwixt 90 and 50 years, . . 180 

Males betwixt 50 and 70 years, 115 

Females betwixt 50 and 70 years, . 196 

Males upwards of 70 years, . . 47 

Females upwards of 70 years, . . 55 

The language usually spoken among the labouring classes is 
Gaelic ; but, owing to the more general intercourse with the south 
country, and the increase of education, it has certainly lost ground 
since the date of the former report, and, as m'ost of the young peo- 
ple now attend school and receive at least the rudiments of educa- 
tion, it bids fair to be altogether unknown at no very distant pe- 

The inhabitants of this parish do not devote much of their time 
to popular games and amusements ; and the few remnanU; of the 
merry olden times are fast passing from among them. The bag- 
pipe is never heard except at weddings, and on Christmas and 
New- Year's Days. Their only game is the shinny y which they 
play with spirit during the holidays, and they then lay their clubs 
aside till the return of the same period next year. There is no- 
thing distinctive in their habits, appearance, or personal qualities. 
They intermarry with the inhabitants of the other parishes on the 
coast-side ; and, consequently, form one community of the same ge- 
neral quality and customs. Their habits are cleanly, and their style 
of dress, when prepared for church on Sunday, is not surpassed by 
that of any assembled congregation of the same class of people in 
the south country. Straw bonnets are becoming general ; and no 
young damsel is seen without a neatly made cap, her hair taste- 
fully braided, and her dress formed after the latest imported fashion. 
A great change this, from the time when they were clad in coarse, 
homespun, woollen stuff, and little regard was paid to appearance 
or cleanliness. 

Though the peasantry cannot procure the same quantity of ani- 
mal (ood, and of the produce of the dairy, as when they lived in 

clvne\ l.ot 

llie interior and occupied a greater extent of land, they enjoy in 
general «in abundant and varied supply at all seasons of the year. 
There is no family without some land, and few but keep one or 
more cows and a pig. Their lots of land supply potatoes, some 
meal, and other necessaries. The more industrious secure a store 
of herrings and other fish ; purchase some sheep or a cow, and kill 
a pig for winter food. Therefore, it may confidently be said, that; 
on the whole, they enjoy, in a reasonable degree, the comforts and 
advantages of society ; and their cheerful industrious habits are the 
best criterion of their being contented with their situation and cir- 

They have acquired, in common with the people of the country, 
a taste for evangelical preaching, and cherish a warm attachment 
towards the Established Church. No Dissenting preacher has 
attempted to gain a footing in the parish ; and it would be in vain, 
so long as the present able and zealous minister continues to pos- 
sess the confidence and affections of his people. There is neither 
a professed Dissenter nor Roman Catholic in the parish ; and, 
what may seem extraordinary, there is not one of the latter per- 
suasion among the natives of the county, in a population of 26,000 
souls. Though the country people are but little educated, they 
will soon discover an error in doctrine, and can quote scripture in 
support of their arguments with surprising readiness and accuracy. 
They are not fanatical nor given to prejudice, if directed by a 
clergyman whom they respect ; and a mutual esteem and attach- 
ment is soon established betwixt the pastor and his flock, such as 
is described in the early and purer days of our church. 

The poor here are more numerous in proportion to the popula- 
tion than in the adjoining parishes of Loth and Golspie, and 
the inhabitants generally are not in such good circumstances as in 
these parishes, which is thus accounted for: — when the tenantswere 
removed from the interior of the country to the coast-side, the poor 
belonging to this and other parts of the estate, and those who were 
unable or unwilling to occupy and improve lots of land, settled in 
the vicinity of the coal-pits, where they were insured abundance of 
fuel, without pay or trouble ; and living among men in the regular 
receipt of high wages, they were sure to obtain a share of these earn* 
ings ; but when the works ceased, they enjoyed no such advan- 
tages, and, being thrown on their own resources, they soon became 
a burden on the community. On the other hand, the people of 
Loth are enriched by the herring-fishing, and the high price paid 


for their labour in the rapidly rising village of Helmsdale. Gol- 
spie is a community of tradesmen, labourers, and fishers, kept in 
constant employment by the establishments of Dunrobin, and of 
the neighbourinor extensive arable farms. 

IV. — Industry. 

Agriculture. — This parish contains 65,000 square acres, of 
which a very small portion indeed is under cultivation ; the rest 
being generally high and irreclaimable hill-pasture. It is not easy 
to state with accuracy the extent of land in tillage, but it cannot 
be under 1400 acres imperial measure, three-fourths of which has 
been trenched from the barren waste by the settlers from the hills, 
and what was formerly under the plough greatly improved. There 
being 385 families, and as these occupy from one to four acres, 
we may safely fix the extent possessed by the cottars on an ave- 
rage at nearly two acres each, making in round numbers 730, ex- 
clusive of the following principal farms : — Clynelish, 235; Inver- 
Brorn, 210; East Brora, 75; Kilcalmkill, 60; Clynekirkton and 
Glebe, 40; Clynemilton, 33; Achrimsdale Park, 17-— total 1400. 
The six farms here enumerated have comfortable dwelling-houses 
and c<omplete oflRces, sufficient for every purpose. They are en- 
closed and subdivided with neat and substantial stone fences, tho- 
roTighly drained, and cultivated, strictly according to the most ap- 
proved system of modern husbandry, producing luxuriant crops of 
barley, oats, and turnips. No wheat is raised, the soil not being 
considered suited for it. The average rent of the old arable land 
is about L. 1, 5s. per acre, and the tenant becomes bound to im- 
prove all corners of fields, and such portions of the adjoining moor- 
ground as is conditioned for on the commencement or renewal of 
his lease. The duration of the leases is for nineteen years. The 
wages to male-servants from L. 8 to L. 10 ; females from L. 3 to 
L. 5 annually ; labourers Is. 6d. per day ; and there is seldom 
any difference made in the winter season, from their being then 
more exposed to inclement weather. 

The parish is entirely laid out in sheep-walks, excepting the 
above arable farms, and the ground occupied by the small tenants. 
The stock is pure Cheviot, and the utmost attention being paid 
to the improvement of the sheep by the present judicious and ex- 
perienced tenants, they deservedly command the highest prices at 
market, and carry the first prizes in competition with the stock of 
other counties. The total number of sheep is from 10,000 to 
1 1,000 ; the rent averaging 2s. 6d. each. There is of other stock» 

CLYNE. 159 

about 300 horses, 250 cows, 300 other cattle, and 300 pigs. 
Goats were at oue time numerous, but they have now quite disap 

When the small tenants were removed from the interior, lots 
were marked off for each of them, containing in every instance 
from a quarter to an acre of old land, and to this was added about 
two acres of moor- ground, which they were to improve. Not only 
has this condition been implemented in most cases, but the ad- 
joining lands have been trenched, and now produce rich crops of 
com and potatoes. There was scarcely a cart or a plough among 
the small tenants in the parish forty years ago. It can now boast 
of 258 carts and 240 ploughs, all made by native tradesmen, on 
the most approved principles. At that date, there was scarcely a 
regularly bred tradesman in the parish. They now abound ; and 
there may be reckoned five stone masons, nine house-carpenters, 
twelve dike-builders, three blacksmiths, nine tailors, twelve shoe- 
makers, three cartwrights, besides journeymen and apprentices. 

There are several clumps of natural wood on the banks of Loch 
Brora, consisting of common and weeping birch, bird-cherry, 
alders, a variety of poplars, some old detached oak trees, and 
about 150 acres of thriving fir plantations at Kilcalmhill ; and on 
the opposite side of the loch, which contributes greatly to the 
beauty of that magnificent lake, — also 50 acres of fir-plantation at 
Clynelish ; but owing to the bad quality of the soil, and its expo- 
sure to the sea-blast) it has hot kept pace with the other woods in 
the parish. The plantations are thinned regularly, sufficiently en- 
closed, and care is taken to prevent trespass by cattle, or other in- 
jury to them. 

Quarries. — There are two freestone quarries, which have been 
extensively worked of late years for domestic purposes, and for ex- 
portation ; one below Spouty, near the sea, of a soft, friable, sandy 
quality, not much used, except for the small country cottages, 
the other at Branbury hill, near Clynelish, a remarkably com- 
pact, hard, silicious freestone, beautifully white, and highly valued 
for its durability. It contains many very perfect petrifactions of 
trees, fishes, and various forms of shells, which are much prized by 
the scientific travellers who visit the country. 

Fisheries. — The river Brora is famous for the number and qua* 
lity of its salmon, and when in proper condition, is one of the best 
angling streams in the north. It is fished for behoof of the pro- 
prietors, and the produce sold to a company at a stipulated rate 


per pound. The rent may be stated at L. 300 a year. Some 
boats have been enoraged at Brora in the herring-fishing, and with 
tolerable success. There are three boats' crews of regular fishers, 
who keep the neighbourhood abundantly supplied, — often selling a 
large cod for 2d., a skate from 4d. to 6d., and sometimes from 20 
to 40 haddocks for 6d. But the other inhabitants have not taken 
to the sea, as was expected, and they are more inclined to occupy 
their time in cultivating their lands, — excepting during the her- 
ing-fishing season, when they are all engaged in it, at Brora or 

Kelp was formerly manufactured on the shores; but this has 
beeu discontinued since the fall in the value of that article at mar- 
ket, and the tenants are allowed the free use of the sea-ware as 
manure for their land. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Market-Town^ i^c. — Dornoch is the nearest market-town, being 

distant about thirteen miles from the confines of the parish; but 

half-yearly markets are held in Golspie, only four miles distant, 

in June and October. Brora is the only village, and contains 280 


Means of Communication. — When the former report was pub- 
lished, there was not a mile of road fit for a carriage, and Brora 
could boast of the only bridge in the county. It has probably long 
enjoyed this advantage, and its name may have been derived from 
the Danish word Brora, a bridge^ or from brugh, a borough. 
Now, the country is intersected in every direction with the finest 
roads in the kingdom, there being in this parish alone about thirty 
miles of road, and fifteen bridges of the most perfect construction, 
and always kept in the best order. No toll- dues are exacted in 
this county, — which is justly prized as a great advantage over our 
neighbours. Brora being a sub-post-office, a neat receiving-house 
was built by subscription from the inhabitants, and the Mail- Coach, 
drawn by two horses, passes and repasses daily. A pier was con- 
structed at the harbour, at the sole expense of the late Duke of 
Sutherland, when the coal and salt works were in operation, and 
which affords secure shelter to coasting vessels. 

Ecclesiastical State, — The parish church, which is the only 
place of public worship, is conveniently situated in the centre of 
the population, the whole inhabitants, with the exception of the 
dwellings of shepherds, being within less than three miles of it. It 
was built about the year 1770 ; and enlarged and thoroughly repair- 
ed thirteen vears ago. It mav contain from 800 to lOOOindividu- 

clyneT 161 

als. The sittings are free, as is the case all over the Duke of Suth- 
erlaDd's property, in this county and in Ross-shire. The manse, 
which was built about the same time with the church, has also re- 
ceived an addition, and it is now a handsome and commodious re- 
sidence. The glebe contains 12 acres of rich soil. The hill 
rights belonging to it were lately exchanged for an equivalent of 
arable land, which is admitted to be far more convenient and ad- 
vantageous for the minister. The stipend is 93 quarters barley, 
and L. 23 in money, including the allowance for communion ele- 
ments. The average number of communicants is 65. 

A catechist is paid by voluntary contributions from the people. 
He perambulates the parish frequently, visiting every family, and 
is a most useful and important assistant to the minister. 

Collections are made periodically for the Inverness Infirmary, 
the four Assembly schemes, and other public charities, amounting 
in all to from L. 12 to L. 20. 

Education. — There are two regular schools, exclusive of private 
teachers, — the parish school, and one in the Doll, which is support- 
ed by the Glasgow Auxiliary Gaelic School Society. The ordinary 
branches of education are taught From the number and position 
of the population, the minister considers two additional schools ne- 
cessary, — one at Brora, and the other at Badinellan. The pa- 
rochial teacher has the maximum salary, and L. 2 Sterling in com- 
pensation for a garden. The fees are very moderate and not well 
paid, seldom exceeding L. 12. His accommodation is comfortable, 
and on a sufficiently liberal scale. Most of the rising generation 
attend school for some period of the year, and are so far in the way 
of receiving the benefits arising from a moral and religious educa- 
tion. There is also a female school at Brora, endowed by the 
Duke of Sutherland, where girls are taught to sew, make their own 
dresses, and other needle-work. 

Library, — A circulating library was established, some years ago, 
among the families on the coast side, which is still in active operation, 
and by means of which they have access to the newest publications 
for payment of a few shillings annually. 

Charitable Institutions. — There are no public charitable institu- 
tions in this parish, nor have the poor the benefit of any charitable 
bequests ; consequently, they are dependent for their subsistence 
on the generosity of the landlord — the liberality of their neigh- 
bours who are in better circumstances, and the pittance afforded 
them from the proceeds of the parochial contributions. 


Tbe annual collections at the church amount to L.20 and up- 
wards ; and, besides a regular donation of L.6 from the Noble pro- 
prietor, there are extra collections^ when the parishioners of all 
ranks contribute liberally. 

The paupers on the roll are about 120, and the average allow^ 
ance to each may be stated at 5s. In seasons of scarcity, the poor 
go about in the parish, and seldom leave it ; but it is absolute ne- 
cessity that compels them to go beyond their own threshold, for 
relief from others. 

A Savings Bank was established for the whole county about six 
years ago, and a branch of it is in each parish. Considerable sums 
were deposited, and the institution has already been of incalculable 
advantage to the community, affording, during the late pressing 
seasons, a relief from the savings of more prosperous times. 

Markets. — A market is held at Brora in the month of October, 
which is attended by the people of this and the neighbouring pa- 
rishes. Shopkeepers come from a distance, and erect tents to dis- 
play their commodities, and they usually meet with a ready sale. 
A great many cattle and horses change owners, it being the last 
market of the season. The five inns in the village used to be 
crowded on this occasion, besides a great many tents in the mar- 
ket for the retail of whisky ; but the Total Abstinence Societies, 
which have been formed of late, have had a miraculous effect in 
improving the tastes and habits of the people in this respect. 
There is not a third part of the spirits used now which were used for- 
merly, and the innkeepers complain loudly that their calling is gone. 

Fuel — The ordinary fuel is peat procured from mosses in the 
close neighbourhood, and the fishers collect coke from the shore 
under flood-mark. Coal is imported, costing from I6s. to 18s. 
per ton, and its use among the wealthier class is much on the in- 

Miscellaneous Observations. 
There is no district of country in Scotland where such an entire 
change has taken place in the habits, character, and pursuits of the 
inhabitants, as in this and the other parts of the county forming 
the estate of Sutherland. They were quite a rural, a moral, and a 
happy population, inhabiting beautifully romantic and sequestered 
glens in the interior — far removed from the bustle of the world. 
Strangers to its allurements and luxuries, they passed their lives, 
generation following generation, in the same localities, but without 
ambition to better their circumstances, or a desire to improve 

CLYNE. 163 

their possessions. All passed happily and without care, so long as 
the seasons proved propitious, and that the produce of their stock 
was sufficient to pay the landlord and to afford the means of sub- 
sistence on their simple fare ; but when the winter storms length- 
ened into spring, and the mill-dew and the early frosts destroyed 
the hopes of the harvest, then indeed came the period of distress ; 
and it is not too much to say that they suffered the very extreme 
of want, which often produced contagious fevers and other mortal 
diseases. This was submitted to, however, in silence and with pious 
resignation : no tumults nor risings against the constituted autho- 
rities, who they well knew could not ward off the general calamity. 
Thus situated, helpless and without resources, their only course 
was an appeal to the compassion of their natural protector, the 
landlord, and this was never done in vain. He required often to 
import meal equal in value to the rent of two or more years, and 
generally leaving a large balance never to be recovered. This state 
of things could not continue, while the rest of the world were mov- 
ing ahead, and making rapid advances in improvement; conse- 
quently, the great and deeply important measure was resolved on 
to remove the population to the coast-side, where they would be 
placed near the sea — become fishermen or artificers, and thus be 
able to benefit by the many and inexhaustible resources which 
Providence has placed within their reach. At this time, there were 
but few bred tradesmen in the country. When a man found it ne- 
cessary to renew his rude dwelling, he called the neighbours to 
his assistance, and it was only the work of a few days to complete 
it. Every man was his own carpenter, for few implements were re- 
quired, and he had little to do with them. One- blacksmith served 
a district. The shoemaker and the tailor migrated from house to 
house, receiving their victuals and a small pittance of wages in 
return for their labour. There was scarcely a cart or a plough in 
the country, excepting on the larger farms. No man thought of 
increasing or improving his tillage or pasture lands by trenching 
or draining. But let any one with an impartial and unprejudiced 
eye examine the present condition of the inhabitants. Their well- 
built and neatly kept cottages and enclosed gardens far exceed 
what many tacksmen in former days paying from L. 50 to L. 100 
possessed. Every individual in the family has some resource in a 
trade or other manual labour — all is a stirring scene of industry 
and positive comfort The father and the sons cultivate the lot, if 
not tradesmen; while the females are engaged with household 
work, or preparing nets for the next herring season. 


Persons who are ignorant of the character of the Highlanders, 
and many who have never seen the country, have ventured to de- 
scribe them as indolent, idle, and unprofitable members of the 
community. A more gross fallacy has never been uttered. They 
are a quiet, sober, brave, and a moral race ; attached and confid- 
ing while kindly and honestly dealt by ; but reserved, stem, and 
unbending as their mountain rocks, wherever they suspect injustice, 
or lose faith in the acts and professions of their superiors. The 
extensive and perfect improvements on the estate of Sutherland 
bear evidence of their activity, industry, and conGdence in their 
landlord, when their energies are properly directed. Those who 
reside in the country can testify, that it is a rare occurrence to 
meet with an individual the worse of liquor, except occasionally at 
markets. The naval and military annals of the nation record their 
bravery, where they have distinguished themselves in many a des- 
perate onset. The faithful labours of our clergy have been bless- 
ed by Providence in rendering them pious and moral ; and their 
character may be summed up in these few words, — that they fear 
God and honour the Queen. 

October 1840. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 
Name. — This district, previous to its erection into a separate 
parish in 1724, and while it constituted but a portion of the ori- 
ginal parish of Durness, was called Kintail, — a term signifying 
the head of (he sea^ (Ceann an fsdil). The nameVas derived 
from the arm of the sea, which, for many miles, stretches inland 
into the parish from the Northern Ocean. The modern name 
(Tongue^) which at 6rst was written (Tung^) is in all probability 
derived from a narrow neck of land jutting out transversely for a 
considerable distance into the Kyle near the House of Tongue, 
which bears a resemblance to a protruded tongue. The Gaeh'c 

TONGUE. 165 

as well as the English name of that organ justifies this deriva- 

Boundaries^ Extent. — It would seem by the record of erection, 
that the boundaries of this parish extended from Torrisdale, in the 
east, to the water of Polla, in the west ; from the Whiten -head, in 
the north, to the great deer forest, in the south. By use and wont, 
however, these boundaries are greatly contracted on the west, in 
which direction the parish is considered now only to extend to the 
top of the Moin or the Ben Hope mountain range. The parish 
of Farr is contiguous on the east and south-east, and the parish 
of Durness on the west and south-west. On the north, it is bound- 
ed by the Northern Ocean. Its figure is irregular, somewhat re- 
sembling, as is mentioned in the former account, a spherical tri- 
angle. The extreme length from north to south is 20 miles ; ave- 
rage 15. The extreme breadth from east to west is 12 miles; 
average 8. As nearly as can be computed, its superficial extent 
is 140 square miles. 

Topographical Appearances. — The general aspect of the parish 
is mountainous. In topographical character, however, it is divid- 
ed into two districts, distinct from each other. The first embraces 
all that is peculiarly alpine, and is the principal part of the parish 
as to extent, population, culture, and beauty. It lies towards the 
west, and consists of the great valley of Tongue, formed by the 
arm of the sea already mentioned, with the streams which flow 
from the interior into the head of it. On either side of the bay, 
two mountain- ranges, rising abruptly and boldly from the ocean, 
stretch along its whole length, and continue taking nearly a paral- 
lel direction, till interrupted by a third range, stretching from east 
to west, which consists of the mountain of Ben Laoghal and its 
arms. The whole constitutes a semicircular chain of hills, appa- 
rently continuous, and gives to the valley the form of a spacious 
amphitheatre. The western range, commencing with Ben Hutig, 
which is 1345 feet high, is for some miles of nearly an uniform 
height, and somewhat monotonous, till it reaches its southern ex- 
tremity, when it suddenly terminates in the huge mountain of Ben 
IIo])e, 306 1 feet high. The eastern range is a series of rounded 
hills, not very lofty, rising above the bay sometimes abruptly, but 
in general receding so gently, as to afford scope for considerable 
cultivation on their sides. The Ben Laoghal range is the most 
picturesque. This noble hill, the queen of Highland mountains, 
occupies the central point of the whole semicircular chain ; there- 


fore, from its position as well as from its romantic outlines, it is 
the most prominent and striking object in the whole scenery. At 
the southern extremity of a low extensive valley, it starts up ma- 
jestically to the height of 2508 feet, presenting towards its base an 
expanded breast of two miles in breadth, and cleft at its top into 
four massy towering and splintered peaks, standing boldly aloof from 
each other. These gradually diminish in height, one after the 
other. The highest stands proudly forward to occupy the fore- 
ground ; the rest recede a little, as if each were unwilling to protrude 
itself, from a conscious inferiority to its predecessor. As a graceful 
finish to its outlines, it stretches forth an arm on either side, as if to 
embrace condescendingly the other mountain ranges, which may 
well acknowledge it as chief, and which may readily be fancied as 
doing it homage. On a summer morning, or after a sweet summer 
shower, when the transparent mist is reposing on its bosom, or 
coiling among its peaks, the appearance of this hill is very beauti- 
ful, and often singularly fantastic. Within this great chain, there 
are various objects which constitute marked features in the sce- 
nery of the district. Amongst these, the Kyle occupies a promi- 
nent place, so studded with islands at its mouth, that, from some 
points of view, its connection with the ocean seems wholly inter- 
cepted. Towards its centre, the point of Tongue and a small is- 
land adjacent thereto, tend farther to charm and relieve the eye, 
by breaking in upon the continuous sheet of water. Another in- 
teresting and conspicuous object is the promontory of Castle Var- 
rich. It consists of a small hill range, running south and north;* 
rising gradually from the low ground at the foot of Ben Laoghal, 
and terminating at its northern extremity in a bold rock of consi- 
derable altitude, which is washed at its base by the water of the 
Kyle, and has its conical summit surmounted by a fine old ruin, 
which imparts a pleasing effect. Altogether, the scenery of this 
part of the parish is much and universally admired. The hand of 
man has undoubtedly done somewhat to embellish it ; but little, 
very little, to what might be effected. Even Macculloch, with all 
his antipathy to the north, has admitted, that, were the Moin, on 
west side of the Bay, to some extent planted, this place would not 
be exceeded in beauty by many parts of the Highlands. 

The second or eastern division of the parish is rather tame and 
monotonous. In the interior, this is partially relieved by loclis of 
various sizes, which are scattered with profusion in every direction^ 

and the ground, moreover, is of a softly unduLiting character ; the 



rocks being clothed with an almost unbroken surface of verdure 
and of heath. Towards the sea-coast, the country becomes crag- 
gy and fretted-like, uninteresting in its general aspect, and appa- 
rently barren. Yet in the midst of this district, when more closely 
examined, there will be found numerous little glens, bestringa rich 
soil and a large population. 

The coast is in general high and rocky, and round the promon- 
tory of the Whiten-head exceedingly bold and picturesque. The 
rocks are frequently intersected by creeks, and formed into 
caves and arches. The caves of Freasgail, which are described 
in the former Account- of this parish, have been noticed in the 
Account of the parish of Durness, in consequence of the mo- 
dern ideas regarding the boundaries of the two parishes. The 
islands are Eilean na naoimh^ (saint's island) — Eilean na roan, 
(seat island,) and the rabbit islands. Eilean na naoimh, situated 
close by the eastern coast of the parish, " had formerly a chapel 
and burial-place on it, the traces of which are still to be seen. 
On the south side of the island, the sea, after passing for several 
yards through a narrow channel, spouts up into the air, some- 
times to the height of thirty feet, through a hole in the rock, which, 
in shape and size, is like the moon at full, and a few seconds af- 
terwards, there is a discharge of water from the east side of the 
island, with a noise resembling the explosion of cannon." Eilean 
na roan is of considerable size, and has the appearance of two 
islands, particularly at high water. Part of it is scooped out into 
the form of a basin, in which the soil is very fertile, and cultivat- 
ed by a few small tenants. Its rocks are high and precipitous, 
and to the north side abound with deep narrow fissures, through 
which the wind rushes with great violence. As this wind, besides 
being sharp and piercing, is impregnated with saline matter, from 
its blowing across the ocean, or perhaps from carrying along with 
it the spray which dashes from off the rocks beneath, the natives 
take advantage thereof for economical purposes. In these fissures, 
they season their fish without using salt. On this north side also 
there is a spacious and elegant-looking arch, about 150 feet Fpan, 
and 70 feet broad. About the middle of the island, there is a largre 
circular hole, which has fallen in many years ago, and is supposed to 
communicate with the sea bv a subterranean cavern.* The Rabbit 
Islands, three in number, are farther within the mouth of the Bay 

* This Island is well worthy of heing visited by travellars who are desirous to sec 
the natural curiosities of the country. 


than the former, and so in some measure removed from the raging of 
the ocean. The rocks are not very high. The soil is sandy, though 
covered with verdure. The present name of these islands sufficient- 
ly indicates who are their principal inhabitants. The ancient name 
was Eilean na Gaeil, the island of strangers, from the Danes bay- 
ing been said to have landed upon it. The principal bays are 
those of Torrisdale and Tongue ; the former is open and tem- 
pestuous, affording little or no shelter for vessels ; the latter is the 
Kyle, or arm of the sea, already noticed. Its length is about ten 
miles, the average breadth about a-mile and a-half. Its depth is 
nowhere great, and, from the shifting nature of its sand banks, na- 
vigation is difficult and often perilous. There is, however, good 
anchorage for ships of any burden at the Rabbit Islands, where they 
may ride with safety in storms from most directions. A fine road- 
stead is also to be found in its neighbourhood at Talmine, a pret- 
ty bay that branches off the west side of the Kyle. It has a smooth 
beach, and a fine bottom, — is much sheltered from the most tem- 
pestuous winds, — and commands a ready exit to the ocean. At 
present, it is one of the principal fishing stations on the coast. 
By the erection of quays, and by connecting the mainland with a 
small island lying close by on the north side, it might be made 
one of the most commodious harbours in the north. Almost op- 
posite to Talmine, on the east side of the Kyle, there is the creek 
of Sculomy, which at present shelters a few fishing-boats, but which 
an inconsiderable expense might render a safe station for many 

Meteorology. — Considering the latitude of this parish, its tem- 
perature is mild, and the climate is very salubrious, though the 
state of the atmosphere is in general extremely changeable. The 
heat is not so great in summer, nor the cold so intense in winter, 
as these seem to be in some of the southern parts of Scotland. 
Placed in a central position between the west and east coasts of 
the island, it is not visited by those frequent deluges of rain which 
are peculiar to the former, nor so exposed to those piercing blight- 
ing winds which prevail in the latlcr. The prevailing winds are 
the south-west and north-west. The severest storms are from 
the south-west, — the most frequent from the north-west. The 
prevalent distempers, as connected with the climate, are rheumatism 
and inflammatory complaints ; but more common than either are 
disorders of the stomach among the poorer people, arising from a 
diet often too scanty, and sometimes unwholesome. Luminous 

TONGUE. 169 

meteors are frequent The circle round the moon and the aurora 
borealis are sometimes brilliant in winter. When the latter is fiery 
and lurid, it is an invariable sign of stormy weather. The former 
generally prognosticates the same, so also does the fragment of a 
rainbow when seen in the north, called ^^ Boar's head." 

Hydrography, — The parish abounds with springs, which are ge- 
nerally perennial, but sometimes intermittent. Chalybeate springs 
are quite common. Sulphureous ones are found in several places, 
chiefly around Ben Laoghal, and there are some which seem to 
be a compound of both. None of these have been properly ana- 
lyzed, but some of the sulphureous seem of such strength, that, 
were they more accessible, they might be found medicinally of 
considerable service. Lochs are so numerous, that from a single 
eminence, which docs not command a view of the whole parish, I 
have counted more than 100. The most deserving of notice are 
the following : — Loch Maedie, in the southern extremity of the 
parish, which may be about six miles in circumference. Its ap- 
pearance is striking, from its margin being singularly indented 
by namerous little bays and projecting points of land, and from 
its bosom being studded with islands, on which grow trees of con- 
siderable size. Loch Diru lies at the foot of the Diru rock, 
which is a part of the west cirm of Ben Laoghal. The loch is two 
miles long, and the rock, which is nearly the same length, towers 
majesticallv above it to the height of 200 feet, — its brow adorned 
at pleasing intervals with solitary trees of birch and mountain-ash. 
This loch is one of the unobserved beauties of the parish, lying in 
a secluded spot, and inaccessible to any but the pedestrian. On 
the east and south-east sides of Ben Laoghal, there is a chain of 
lochs of considerable extent, called Lochs Cullisaid, Laoghal, 
Craggy, and Slam, which communicate with each other by nar- 
row fords or small rivulets. Loch Laoghal is the largest of the 
four, and, indeed, the largest in the parish, — being five miles long 
and upwards of a mile broad. There are two islands upon it, 
where wild-fowl nestle in great numbers. The verdure in its neigh- 
bourhood is rich. A few trees fringe its margin on the west side, 
and on the opposite there rises a hill of considerable height, green 
to the top, with a thriving birch- wood at its base. Loch Crag- 
gy is interesting, by commanding a fine profile view of Ben 
Laoghal. Were this chain connected by a road with Lochs 
Maedie and Diru, sweeping round the whole of Ben Laoghal, it 
would form a ride which, as regards loch and mountain scenery, 



could, for the same extent, be rarely surpassed in beauty. The 
rivers are, the Borgie, Rhians, and Kinloch ; none of them of 
much consequence. The Borgie (called in the former Account 
the Torrisdale) rises from Loch Slam, and, after separating this 
parish from that of Farr during the greater part of its course, falls 
into the sea on the west side of the Bay of Torrisdale. The 
Rhians and the Kinloch, neither of them more than two miles 
in length, fall into the head of the Kyle of Tongue, — the former 
on the east side of Castle Varrich, the latter on its west Cas- 
cades are numerous, and some of them pretty, though on a small 

Geology. — The principal rock in the parish is gneiss. It con- 
stitutes the mountain-range of Ben Hutig and the Moin, likewise 
the smaller range of Castle Varrich, and prevails throughout the 
whole extent of the eastern division of the parish. Its mineral 
character seems to be the common ternary compound of quartz, 
felspar, and mica ; though not unfrequently hornblende is sub- 
stituted for the latter. The aspect of this rock varies much from 
the component minerals, and, from the size of these minerals, as 
distinct concretions* It is regularly stratified, though in some 
places, as towards the east, this is not so evident, from the strata 
being intersected by quartz and granite veins, and disturbed and 
contorted by what appears, in some cases, the action of fire, and, 
in others, the action of water. The direction of the strata on the 
west of Tongue Bay is south-east, at an angle of 20^ On the 
east of the Bay their direction is west-south-west, at an angle of 
40% with the exception of a small district at Sculomy, where the 
direction is south-south-east, and the angle 60°. In various places 
garnet is found imbedded in this' rock. Ben Hope is composed 
of mica-slate, being part of a very extensive district where this rock 
is developed. A stripe of the same formation isr also found at the 
shore side, on the west side of the bay, stretching from a point op- 
posite the village of Tongue to a place called Portvasgo, near the 
Rabbit Islands. It connects with, and conforms to, the gneiss of 
the mountain range above it, — the strata being in the same direc- 
tion and at the same angle. The rocks of Eilean na roan are a 
fine specimen of the conglomerate, which rests upon red sandstone. 
The sandstone is only to be seen in the north side of the island, 
stratified in the direction west-south-west, at an angle of 10°; at 
which point the junction of the two formations is very distinct and 
beautiful. The mountain- range, stretching along the east side of 


TONGUE. 17r 

the Kyle from Coldbacky to'Cnoc- Craggy, consists of conglome- 
rate capping the gneiss, and resting horizontally on its fractured 
beds. The junction in this case is quite visible in some exposed 
rocks at Coldbacky. Red sandstone has also been discovered at 
one point in this mountain-range, near Dalcharn. The whole 
mountain of Ben Laoghal is sienite, '* which consists of a light 
flesh-red felspar, grey quartz, and black or dark-green hornblende, 
with minute and sparingly disseminated crystals of brown sphene. 
In several places the quartz almost disappears, — the rock then be* 
coming a binary compound of felspar and hornblende. The struc- 
ture of this sienite on the small scale is small granular, while on 
the large it is disposed in a most distinctly tabular manner. In- 
deed, few localities can be pointed out in Scotland where this 
beautiful rock arrangement is more characteristically developed. 
From various parts of its summit the entire structure may be traced 
with the utmost precision, and the several tabular concretions fol- 
lowed, with little variation, throughout its whole extent. The la- 
teral planes of the tabular concretions are in general nearly paral- 
lel, and exhibit an almost polished surface. This mountain might, 
if other circumstances rendered it expedient, be wrought exten- 
sively for building materials. Such would be attended with but 
little diflBculty as far as the raising of the stone is concerned, while 
the tabular form is so regular, that, for many purposes, very little 
dressing would be requisite."* Black manganese ore has been 
found on the top of Ben Laoghal. Bog-iron ore is very common. 
Granite boulders are frequent about Tongue village. Whence 
they have come, is a problem not easy to solve. The prin- 
cipal alluvium is peat, which covers a great proportion of the pa- 
rish : a quantity of fir-wood is found imbedded in it. The soil, 
which is, or has been, under cultivation, is in some places a black 
rich loam ; in others a sandy loam ; but, perhaps, the most com- 
mon is a soil compounded of gravel and peat, with an admixture 
either of clay or sand. 

Zoology. — The zoology of the parish is such as is common to 
the whole of this north coast, on which the various species of 
quadrupeds, birds, and fishes are numerous. Game of almost 
every description is to be found in the parish, but not in such 
abundance as formerly, owing, it is supposed, to the extensive 
moor-burnings upon the sheep farms. Fishing upon lakes and 

• Cunningham *s Geognosy of Sutherland, — a work to which the writer is much 
indebted in drawing up this article. 


rivers has also fallen off; to account for which, many opinions have • 
been entertained, which at best are mere conjectures. The fresh- 
water fishes generally used at table are, salmon, grilse, trout, and 
char. Those got on the coast are chiefly herring, cod, ling, had- 
dock, whiting, skate, and flounder. In September, quantities of 
coal-fish are caught close to the rocks. Turbot and tusk are oc- 
casionally found. The upper part of the Kyle abounds with shell- 
fish, which ate easily gathered, as the sea ebbs a considerable dis- 
tance. Mussels and spout-fish of excellent quality are to be had; 
but cockles are the most abundant of all. These are of various 
sizes and colours. All of them, however, are rich and delicious 
when in season, which is from April to September. They are 
highly relished by strangers, who are loud in their praises ; and ' 
they are an invaluable blessing to those within reach of them, 
who, during the summer months, use them daily as an article of 

Botany, — The flora of this parish is not known to contain any 
plants peculiar to itself, or such as are very rare in other places. 
Perhaps the following are among those most deserving of notice. 
Some of them, though rare in this parish, are common in other 
parts of this country. 

Betula nank Fragaria vesca Nymphaea alba 

Carex hirta Habenaria viridis Oxytropis uralensis 

— —- incurva Hyacinthus non-scripius Primula Scotica 

-limosa Juniperus communis Saxifraga oppositifolia 

Chcrleria scdoides Lamium album Silene inflata 

Cynoglossum officinale Lislcra ovata Veronica serpyllifoHa 

Digitalis purpurea Lycopodium clavatum Vicia Cracca. 

Dryas octopetala ■ • alpinum 

Festuca bromoides Mclampyrum pratcnse 

None of the native plants are now employed for culinary pur- 
poses, though formerly mugwort and nettle were made use of in 
this way. Ragwort is sometimes used as an emollient ; and the 
leaves of ribwort plantain are successfully applied to fresh wounds. 
Heather is employed to dye green ; ragwort to dye yellow ; the 
lichen obtained on stones, to dye red-brown ; and alder bark, to 
dye black, which, by the addition of copperas, is effectually fixed, 
and made to assume a still deeper hue. The native arborescent 
species now to be met with, are not numerous, and for the most part 
rather stinted in their growth. Betula alba (birch) predominates. 
Salix alboy S. cinereaf (white ^and grey willow,) Corylus Avellana 
(hazel,) and Pyrus aucuparia (the mountain-ash,) come next, in 
nearly equal quantities. Alnus glutinosa (alder,) and Prunusspi-- 
nosa (sloe,) fringe the water courses. Ilex aquifolium (holly) is 

TONGUE. 173 

frequent in rocky burns and cascades. Quercus robur (oak) is to 
be seen in a few places ; but, from its being exposed to be trodden 
down by cattle, it only attains the size of a trifling shrub. It may 
be mentioned, that Ulex EuropcBus (whin) and Cytisus Scoparius 
(broom) grow freely in several places; but both were probably in- 
troduced about sixty years ago. The natural wood, which, for a 
long time, was neglected and destroyed, and in consequence fasit 
dwindling away, has of late years been well kept and thinned. 
The only plantations of any extent in the parish are those around 
the House of Tongue. There are specimens to be seen here of 
beech, elm, ash, and lime, which, for size and beauty, may vie with 
any in the north. The greater part of these plantations are of re- 
cent date, composed of a mixture of hard-wood, fir, and plane- 
tree, for all of which the soil seems well adapted. Larch and 
spruce fir thrive much better than the Scotch. Altogether the 
plantations are in a most flourishing condition, and prove beyond a 
doubt the advantages that would accrue to such a country as this 
from their greater extension. Besides beautifying the scenery, they 
would ameliorate the climate, and become a fruitful source of re- 
venue. The ordinary fruit-trees thrive well when they obtain the 
support and shelter of a good wall. 

II. — Civil History. 

Distinyuished Families, — This parish is the birth-place, and was 
the residence of the most of the noble family of Reay. Some of 
these signalized themselves for prowess and skill in the military 
operations of their own times : among whom may be mentiohed 
Donald first Lord Reay, who so distinguished himself in the wars 
of Gustavus Adolphus. Tradition ascribes to him most singular 
superhuman powers of body. There were other members of this 
family who, though not distinguished as public characters, devoted 
their influence to the welfare of their people, by whom their me- 
mories were cherished for several generations, for intelligence, 
patriotism, and exemplary piety. A full account of them will be 
found in Mackay's History of the House and Clan of Mackay. 

Ministers, — Though erected in 1724, this parish was not sup- 
plied with a minister till 1726, when Mr George Mackay was ap- 
pointed, who only lived two years. His successor was Mr Walter 
Ross, a man of fine preaching talents, but whose reserved man- 
ners and secluded habits were not calculated to gain upon the 
rough, frank Highlander. He occupied the parish till 1763, when 
he resigned. After his resignation Mr John Mackay was ap- 


pointed, who, being of a weak and sickly constit^^^^^^^^^ was unable 
1 hour efficiently in the pansh, and only lived m the charge for 
^^ In 1769, he was succeeded by Mr William Mackenzie. 

As hSScumbencyVorins an era in the history of this parish, his 
deserves special notice in such an account as this. A native of 
R^^-shire soon after his license, he came to officiate as missionary 
in the neighbouring parish of Farr; and though possessing highly 
lar talents, a liberal education, and prospects of advancement 
eSewhere through influential friends, yet, having formed a strong 
attachment to his adopted country, he accepted a call to this pa- 
rish when vacant by the death of Mr Mackay. He found it in a 
deplorable state of religious ignorance. Scarce could one be found 
to repeat the Shorter Catechism. There was only one elder with- 
in the bounds, and it was impossible to fix on others, bearing the 
necessary religious character, who could be ordained to this office 
so as to constitute a session. The sanctity of the Lord's day was 
irrossly violated by persons forming bargains, going and coming to 
the house of God. A general apathy to the means of grace was 
manifest ; and several gross practices, the relics of a barbarous 
aire, were common at funerals and festivals. 

With these evils to contend against, he entered on his charge 
with zeal and energy, and an untiring devoted ness to the interests 
of hb flock. But, for three years, he seemed to labour in vain, and 
the feeling of his heart was, " Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech." 
At last, the time to visit this portion of Zion was come. One day 
he took occasion from the pulpit to remonstrate plainly and faith- 
fully with the people, for their several sins ; declared his own ar- 
dent hopes of being instrumental in reforming them, when he en- 
tered the parish ; the bitterness of his feelings in his disappoint- 
ment hitherto, and his prayer to God, that were this to continue 
He would remove him from amongst them. Overpowered by his 
feelings, he could proceed no longer. For the first time, the con- 
gregation were seen bathed in tears, and overwhelmed with a feel- 
ing of shame, and from that day there was the most marked change ; 
a truly fruitful revival was the consequence. The people showed 
all docility in receiving the instructions of their pastor ; the house 
of God was thronged by persons from the most distant corners of 
the parish ; respect and attention were shown to the ordinances 
and duties of religion ; barbarous usages were gradually laid aside ; 
ami under his affectionate, glowing, and faithful ministry, there 
spranjT up a race of intelligent Christians, so that he was soon en- 

TONGUE. 176 

abled to form a throng session of elders, who, considering their 
station in society, were ornaments in the church. Likewise under 
his fostering care, several young men were reared for the minis* 
try, all of whom, with scarce an exception, he had the pleasure of 
seeing the instruments of extensive usefulness. 

This honoured servant of the Lord laboured for sixty-five years 
among a devotedly attached people, being able to preach and ad- 
minister the sacraments to the very last. He died in 1834, at the 
advanced age of ninety-six. His people commonly spoke of him 
as *^ the great minister," and testified their esteem and affection 
by erecting a handsome monument to his memory. 

Parochial Register. — There was no register kept, previous to 
the year 1775. From that period till 1797 there was a record of 
births and marriages regularly made up ; but the person who was ses- 
sion-clerk at that time became deranged, which was never suspect- 
ed till it was incontestibly proved, by his being found one morning 
busily employed in the churchyard distributing papers on the grave- 
stones, with the sanguine hope of raising an army from the dead. 
On examination, these papers were discovered to be the parish 
register, so torn as to be completely useless. From 1797 mar* 
riages and births were registered, but not in a permanent form, 
and many of the loose sheets have been lost through the careless • 
ness of clerks. However, since 1816, a correct register has been 
regularly kept. 

Antiquities. — The most striking ruin is Castle Varrich, stand- 
ing on the promontory already mentioned, bearing the same name. 
It is a square building, which originally consisted of two stories, 
the first arched with stone, the second covered with wood. Its 
dimensions inside are not great ; the walls are thick, and still of a 
considerable height Tradition is silent as to its history, on which 
subject its name has given rise to various conjectures; but most 
probably the name is merely derived from a Gaelic word signifying 
the castle on the eminence. The remains of sevefal circular toweis 
are to be seen, extending from the coast to the interior, which, from 
the circumstance of one being always in sight of another, are sup- 
posed to have been erected for the purpose of conveying telegra- 
phic information when an enemy threatened to invade the country. — 
Several subterranean caves have been found in the parish, long and 
narrow in their construction, with a small entrance. From various 
circumstances they appear to be artificial, and were probably occu- 


pied by the natives, in warlike times, as places of retreat. The 
only tumuli to be seen, are at a place jcalled Druim na Coup, where, 
as has been noticed in the former account, a battle was fought be- 
tween the Mackays and the Sutherlands. Upon the same ground, 
or nearly so, a party of French were seized in 1746, going south 
with gold to aid the rebels. The French vessel in which they 
were conveyed, being pursued off this coast, ran for safety into 
the Bay of Tongue, and the party, carrying their valuable treasure, 
landed at Melness, where for a night they were protected by a 
gentleman of kindred sentiments. Next day, his son went to con* 
duct them by the safest route through the country, but, as soon 
as their character and object were known, they were pursued 
by a band of natives from several neighbouring places. When 
the French came to Druim na Coup, finding that these were in 
chase of them, and hearing the beating of a drum resounding from 
the cliffs of Ben Laoghal, indicating the approach of soldiers from 
the south, they at once surrendered. Much of the gold was lost, 
being probably thrown into a deep loch in the neighbourhood, but 
a considerable quantity was appropriated by those who led on the 
pursuit. A few gold coins have since been found at a conside- 
rable distance from Druim na Coup. 

III. — Population. 

In 17.55, the population by return to Dr Webster was 1093 
1791, . ... 1439 

1831, by Government census, , 2030 

1838, .... 2080 

Of these 956 were males; 1124 were females. In 1791 it is 
stated that the births were 47, and marriages 17. Since 18S1, 
births have averaged 44, and marriages 1 1. It thus appears that, 
in a population of 1439, there were more births and marriages, es- 
pecially the latter, than there are now in a population of 2080. 
The probable solution of this strange fact is, that the population, 
having increased till it has become a burden on the land at pre- 
sent cultivated, the subdividing of crofts having been prohibited 
and the ordinary sources of industry by sea and land having, for 
some time, cither proved unproductive or being shut up, the young 
of both sexes felt that they could not marry without running the 
hazard of being soon exposed to hardships and want. When mar- 
riages decrease, births of course share the same fate. 

The Duke of Sutherland, the only nobleman connected with 
the parish as proprietor, has a residence in it— the House of 
Tongue, which he occasionally occupies for a few days in autumn, 

TONGUE. 177 

ivben visiting his extensive domains in the north. Part of it is in- 
habited by his Grace's factor. There are three substantial resi- 
dent sheep-farmers ; a medical practitioner, whom the proprietor 
encourages by giving a free house and L. 60 annually ; and a fish- 
ery officer. The peasantry reside in hamlets, and when a road 
passes through, the houses are arranged in a straight line on the 
one side, each standing on the croft of land attached to it. 244 
pay rent^ There are about 116 families, besides, who are mere 
cottars, having no land, in the majority of cases without any trade, 
and depending for their sustenance on a little day labour and on 
the kindness of their neighbours, who often give them patches of 
their own small crofts for raising a few potatoes. There are 4 
carpenters, 10 masons, 8 tailors, 9 shoemakers, 3 smiths, and I 
watchmaker. There are 6 fatuous, none insane, 2 dumb, and 
none who were blind from birth. 

LiOnguage. — The language of the peasantry is Gaelic; in it 
they invariably converse with one another, but, owing to the influx 
of persons from the south, the influence of schools, and the fre- 
quency with which they go south in quest of labour, English is 
generally understood by the young, and spoken by many of them 
with considerable accuracy. 

Character of the People, — The young of both sexes are ambi- 
tious to dress well, so as to make a respectable appearance on 
Sabbaths and holidays. This is a laudable feeling, though it 
sometimes leads to extravagance, by inducing them to expend their 
hard- won earnings in sacrificing comfort to occasional show. 
When dressed in their best attire they are allowed to be a fine-look- 
ing peasantry. At the late Duke of Sutherland's funeral, when 
numbers from the whole county were invited to attend, and direct- 
ed to line the road, arranged according to their respective parishes, 
as the procession passed by, the men from Tongue attracted ge- 
neral notice for their superior dress and appearance. It might 
hence be expected that their comforts were also superior; but no. 
They are, indeed, not worse ofi* than their neighbours in this re- 
spect. The general standard is, however, wretchedly low. No 
doubt a few of them are comfortable, but the generality seldom 
can rise above the commonest necessaries of life ; and it is painful 
to think of how some eke out a subsistence. The consequence is, 
that poverty is gradually manifesting its baneful effects upon the 
intellects and morals of naturally a fine and generous people. 
The taste for music, dancing, and public games, is much on the 


decline, and few or no traces are to be seen of the poetic talent 
and sprightly wit for which their ancestors, in common with most 
Highlanders, were distinguished. The imaginative powers are 
crushed under the continued pressure of a poverty that impels 
the mental energies in the low direction of what shall we eat and 
what shall we drink ; and the habits of reflection and deep->thinking 
are exchanged for a sharp- sigh tedness in looking after their little 
secular interests. It is impossible that circumstances which have 
thus operated on their intellectual^character, should not also aflect 
their morals and religious feelings. They have done so, though 
not so greatly as might be expected ; and it is saying much to 
their credit, that there is so little amount of crime, and so much 
security for person and property. There were never but two from 
this parish tried at a justiciary court, one not a native, and the 
other only for a breach of trust. The people are kind and peace- 
able, patient undbr adversity, submissive to laws, and respectful to 
authorities. They possess a good deal of religious knowledge, 
and much veneration for religious ordinances and usages. It is 
rare now to find one who cannot repeat the Shorter Catechism, 
and the writer knows not that such a thing exists among the na- 
tive peasantry as a family without the daily worship of God. Many 
among them are decided Christians. The generality, it is to be 
feared, rest satisfied, however, with acquiring vague ideas, and en- 
gaging in empty forms; while it is matter of painful experience 
that the downward earthly tendency of their thoughts, induced so 
much by poverty, has a fearful eflect in deadening their minds to 
religious impressions. It is manifest, also, that intercourse with 
the ungodly when south, and at the herring-fishing in Caithness, 
together with the desecration of the Lord's day by travellers from 
other places, (a sin till lately happily unknown), are very injurious 
to their morals and religious sentiments. Laziness is no longer 
characteristic of the people. They are alive to the advantages of 
industry. In proof of which many of them annually go south, be- 
cause so little encouragement is given them at home. Poaching 
is unknown, and smuggling has been effectually put down through 
the exertions of the proprietor. 

IV. — Industry. 
Agriculture. — The number of imperial acres in cultivation is 
about 1000. It may safely be said, that three times this num- 
ber might be added with a profitable application of capital. 
There are 200 acres of plantation, and fully 500 acres under na- 

TONGUE. 179 

tural wood. The extent of the latter is not easily ascertained, 
from the irregular manner in which it is disposed. 

RenL — The real rental of the parish is L. 2282, ISs. lid., of 
which letters pay L. 757, lis. dd. ; and large fiirmers L. 1525, 
2s. dd« The average rent of arable land per acre is L. 1. 

Wages. — Tradesmen are allowed 2s. a-day, and day-labourers 
Is. 6d. in summer, and Is. in winter. 

The raw produce which is offered for sale is trifling. Those 
who do sell, are regulated by market-prices. Very superior 
Cheviot sheep are reared upon the targe farms, which are highly 
esteemed, and fetch high prices in the southern markets. The 
small tenants rear the black-faced breed, or more generally 
a cross between it and the Cheviot. From want of full feeding, 
their pasture being limited and generally overstocked, both their 
sheep and their cattle are stinted in their growth. A real High - 
land pony can now seldom be seen. The system of farming upon 
the crofts is decidedly bad. The tenants, besides endeavouring 
to keep more cattle than they can properly feed, employ a rota- 
tion of potatoes, bear, and oats, by which the land, thus constant- 
ly cropped, is so exhausted, that in many places the force of 
manure cannot now make it yield an adequate return. Besides, 
it is seldom properly drained or fenced, so that in winter it is 
commonly very wet, and injured by the poaching of cattle. As a 
proof of the deteriorating effects of this system of husbandry, it 
may be mentioned, that while the land cultivated by the largo 
farmers will yield on an average seven returns in grain crops, the 
small tenants seldom obtain above four returns of bear, and as to 
oats, they do not calculate upon more than double the seed. The 
potato crop is that alone which gives a really remunerating 
return. The large farmers have leases of nineteen years' duration. 
Small tenants have only one year's tenure of their land, which is 
certainly a discouragement to them in improving their lots. 

Quarries. — The only quarries that have been wrought are on 
the Melness, or west side of the Bay of Tongue, a flag quarry 
at Portvasgo, and a slate quarry at Talmine. Both are of tho 
mica-slate formation. They have been wrought to a considerable 
extent, and have been found very useful for several country pur- 
poses. The expense of quarrying, however, is too great to make 
this a profitable trade, or to admit of much export, and according- 
ly it has of late been almost discontinued. 

i^wAeriM.— There is a salmon-fishing upon the water of Borgie, 


where on an average 2000 fish are caught yearly. The herrings 
tishery is that which has been carried on most extensively in the 
parish. At one time it promised to be profitable ; of late, how- 
ever, it has turned out a ruinous speculation, as the annexed ac* 
counts will show. 

In 1833, boaU fishing, 30— barrels cured, 3538 — average per boat, 118 
}QS5, do. 64 do. 6304 do. 984 

1839, do. 68 do. 1425 do. 21 

1840, do. 68 do. 1233 do. 18 

Raw Produce, — 

Produce of grain of all kinds, . « - L. 84^ 

potatoes and turnips, - - - 1939 

meadow and cultivated hay, ... 500 

land in pasture, rating at Ids. per cow, and at 2s. 6d. per ewe or 

full-grown sheep, - - - - 3080 

gardens, .... . 140 

thinnings of woods and plantations, - - - 60 

fisheries, sea and river, ... 1300 

quarries, • - - - .20 

miscellaneous produce, viz. fuel, sea-weed, and cockles, - - 541 

L. 11,030 

Manufactures. — From twenty to thirty tons of kelp were annually 
manufactured in this parish until 1832; but since then, as its place 
has been supplied by cheaper substitutes, the price has suffered 
such a depression as to render it no object for employing labour- 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Means of Communication. — There is no market-town in the pa- 
rish ; the nearest is Thurso, in the county of Caithness, distant 
forty-five miles. There is a post-oflRce in the village of Tongue, 
and mails run three times a-week to Thurso, and twice a-week to 
Golspie. There is also a post to Durness, whose days of arriving 
and starting correspond to those of the Golspie mail. The vehi- 
cle from Golspie carries three passengers ; that from Thurso car- 
ries four inside and four outside. A lighter vehicle, however, runs on 
this latter line during winter, which only acconimodates five passen- 
gers. The length of roads in the parish is d9| miles. Of these, 1 1 
are Parliamentary, 14| county trust roads, and 14 private tenantry 
roads. They are kept in excellent repair. The bay of Tongue 
is crossed by a ferry 1262 yards broad. In 1830-31, slip quays 
were built, and proper boats procured. This ferry, which is a 
great annoyance to travellers, might be shortened to a fourth of its 
present breadth, by constructing a mound between the point of 
Tongue, and the island adjacent thereto. As the water here is 
not very deep, nor the current strong, and as profusion of mate- 

4 _ 

TONGUE. 181 

rials lie ready at band, it is believed by many that such an under- 
taking would not be very expensive. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The church is so situated as to be nearly 
equidistant from the several extremities of the parish. There are, 
however, two populous districts on either side of it, so remote, 
that few of the people can attend public worship. The Skerray 
district to the east, which contains a population of 630, is from 
seven to eleven miles distant from the church. The Melness dis- 
trict to the west, with a population of 690, is from four to eight miles 
distant, separated, moreover, by the arm of the sea, the crossing of 
which is always expensive and often impracticable. Each of these 
stand much in need of the labours of a resident minister. Mel- 
ness forms the chief part of a mission connected with part of the 
parish of Durness. The missionary is supported by the Society 
for Propagating Christian Knowledge ; and a church and manse 
were built by the late Duchess- Countess of Sutherland* 

The parish church was built in 1680, — was nearly rebuilt in 
1731, and repaired 1778. A few years ago, new doors were put 
in, and some of the pews a little improved. • It is seated for 520^ 
being just suflBcient accommodation for the proportion of the peo- 
ple who can conveniently attend. There are no seat rents. The 
pews were originally purchased by the parishioners, and continue 
the property of their descendants while they remain in the parish. 
In winter, when the people are all at home, the church is well fill- 
ed, and the people are diligent in attending the catechetical mi- 
nistrations of their pastor. There is one catechist chosen by the 
people, and supported chiefly by a small salary from the Society for 
Propagating Christian Knowledge. The number of elders are 
eleven, and of male heads of families in communion with the 
church 45. Collections are annually made for the General As- 
sembly's five schemes, and occasionally for other objects. There 
are no Dissenters, Seceders, Episcopalians, or Roman Catholics 
in the parish. 

The manse was built in 1787, and has never got a thorough 
repair ; a new substantial house is, however, to be commenced ear- 
ly this season, having been already contracted for. The stipend is 
L.150, with an allowance for communion elements. When the 
present incumbent entered on the charge, the glebe was of little 
value ; the hill-grazing was a share of an undivided common, and 
the little arable land was rig about with adjoining tenants. An 
excambion being obtained, and quantity given for quality, improve- 



ments have since been carried on at great expense, and now the 
glebe might probably fetch a rent of L.50 per annum. 

Education, — At present there are three schools in the parish ; 
the parochial, and two supported by the Educational Committee 
of the General Assembly. One of the Assembly's schools is at 
Skerray, the other at Melness. Last year there were three schools 
besides, — two supported by private subscription, which, for seve- 
ral causes, have since been suppressed, — the third was a Gaelic 
school, granted by the Gaelic School Society, which has been 
discontinued by the managers, though only two years in operation^ 
and particularly useful. When the schools were examined last 
spring, there were nearly 400 children in attendance. The 
schools at present in existence are efficiently conducted. The com- 
mon branches of education are taught in them all. The paro- 
chial teacher is qualified to teach mathematics, Latin, Greek, 
and French, but there are very few now who prosecute these stu- 
dies. His accommodation as to school-room, dwelling-house, ,and 
garden, is excellent. His salary is the maximum, but fees itre ill 
paid. The people in general are more alive now to the benefits 
of education than they have been, though still there is vast room 
for improvement. Irregularity in attendance, and want of proper 
school-books, from inability to buy them, are serious drawbacks 
to the proficiency of the scholars. There is one part of the Mel- 
ness side where an additional school is decidedly required. It is 
removed at a considerable distance from the place where the As- 
sembly school is situated, and is separated by a large rivulet, 
which, from want of a bridge, is, for the most part, impassable in 
winter. Were a school got for this locality, upwards of forty chil- 
dren might attend it. 

Literature, — Two years ago, a subscription library and a read- 
ing club were set on foot, through the strenuous and praiseworthy 
exertions of Mr Horsburgh, the local factor. The members of the 
library exceed 1 00. These, however, do not all belong to this pa- 
rish. Every member on admission pays 5s., and 2s. 6d. of yearly 
contribution. The number of volumes already amount to 455, 
consisting of a choice selection of books in theology, history, 
poetry, travels, memoirs, &c Many of them are donations re- 
ceived by Mr Horsburgh from his acquaintances in the south, and 
sent by others who have taken an interest in this promising insti« 
tution. The gentlemen of the club purchase new standard works, 
and, instead of exposing them to sale at the year's end, they gra- 

TONGUE. 183 

iuitously transfer them to the library, and thus, while the country 
people generally are benefited by them, the members of the dub, 
who are all likewise members of the library, have still access to 
them. This plan since its adoption has been warmly commended. 
The noble family of Sutherland are so satisfied of its value that 
they resolve to patronize it Th6 Duke and Duchess, their Com- 
missioner, and the Member of Parliament for the county, have se- 
verally requested to be admitted members of both library and club, 
and each propose making a handsome donation to the former. 
The donation of the Duchess, consisting of 32 volumes, has been 
already received. 

Savings Banks, — There is a branch in this parish of the Su- 
therland iSavings Bank, established in 18d4>, by the advice and 
under the direction of Mr Loch, M. P., Commissioner to the Duke 
of Sutherland. It extends over the whole county, and is divided 
into three general branches, which again are subdivided according 
to the parishes. The deposits and drawings in this parish since its 
commencement, are as follows : 

From February 1834, to 31st July 1834, 

do. 1835, do. 1835, 

do. 1836, do. 1836, 

do. 1^*37, do. 1837. 

do. 1838, do. 1838, 

do 1839, do. 1839, 

do. 1840, do. 1840, 

L 907 11 9 L.461 15 9 

The number of depositors at present is 35, composed chiefly 
of tradesmen, servants, and junior members of families. Four per 
cent, interest is given for sums under L.20. When the amount 
exceeds this sum, only 2 per cent, is allowed. 

Poor, — The average number of paupers for the last six years 
is 70. The funds for their relief are distributed yearly, and, as 
these are variable, the sum allotted to each cannot be permanent. 
The distributions to the different paupers range generally from 2s. 
to lOs., according to their peculiar circumstances. Church col- 
lections and an annual donation of L.6 from the Duke of Suther- 
land, which, united, amount on an average to L. 24, constitute 
the sole fund for their relief, at the disposal of the session. From 
this sum there are to be deducted small salaries for the kirk-ofiicer 
and session-clerk, and disbursements for assisting in the burial of 
those who die quite destitute. It is thus evident that the poor 
are mainly indebted for their support, not to the session funds, but 



L.151 11 5 

112 11 4 

L. 23 17 5 

182 18 5 

65 16 8 

89 3 

. 77 5 11 

80 15 4 

132 14 2 

103 14 1 

105 3 1 

187 11 

56 15 6 


to the every-day charities and kind offices of relatives and neigh- 
bours. Yet, trifling as the sum given by the session is, the de- 
mands on them are increasing, and it is not considered now nearly 
so degrading to receive their ^id as it was a few years ago. 

Besides those upon the poor's roll, there are a few who receive 
permanent charity in meal or otherwise, to the annual value of 
L.14, Is. 3d., granted originally by the late Duchess -Countess of 
Sutherland, and continued by his Grace the present Duke of 
Sutherland. Her Grace's kindness to aged widows and to re- 
spectable persons in reduced circumstances, was very considerate, 
and a most commendable trait in her character. It deserves to be 
noticed that, in 1837, a season of great scarcity in the Highlands, 
she gave meal to the poor of the parish to the value of about 
L.60, and supplied the small tenants with a great quantity at the 
purchase price, — the arrears of which have lately been remitted, 
amounting to about L. 200. The object of putting this meal to 
the accounts of the tenants was, not so much the expectation of 
ever realizing the money, as the desire that they should not feel 
themselves therein treated as paupers. 

Inns. — There are only two houses licensed to sell spirits. One 
of these is a neat comfortable inn in the village of Tongue, which 
was considered a large house when built twenty years ago, though 
now it is frequently found deficient in the necessary accommoda- 

Fuel. — Peat is the fuel commonly used by all classes. From 
its long continued and rapidly increasing consumption, the labour 
and expense of procuring it is now very great; and the more com- 
fortable inhabitants seem resolved to purchase coal in future, as- 
sured that it will be -found less expensive. Free access to peat, 
however, is a mighty privilege to the common people, as it costs 
them nothing but their personal labour. 

Miscellaneous Observations. 
Many changes have taken place in the parish, since the former 
Account was drawn up. The first and most important is the in- 
troduction of sheep- farming. The character of this change will 
be variously estimated, as persons are disposed to look at one or 
other of its effects. That it has rendered this country more valu- 
able to proprietors cannot be questioned, — for certain it is, that in 
no other way could a great part of it be laid out to such advan- 
tage ; though it may fairly be questioned whether, by extending it 
too far, they have not injured themselves. If, however, we are to 

TONGUE. 186 

estimate this system by its bearing on the former occupiers of the 
soil, and by the circumstances into which it has brought their chil- 
dren, no friend of humanity can regard it but with the most pain- 
ful feelings. When introduced here, several hundreds, many of 
them of a grade quite superior to mere peasants, were driven from 
their beloved homes, where they and their fathers enjoyed peace 
and plenty. Some wandered to Caithness', others sought an asy- 
lum in the woods of America, but most, clinging with a passion to 
their native soil, located themselves by permission in hamlets near 
the shore. In these places the land, already occupied by a few, 
but now divided among many, was totally inadequate to the main- 
tenance of all, and iishing became their necessary resource. And 
thus, on a tempestuous coast, with no harbours but such as na- 
ture provided, and in a country inaccessible, from want of roads, 
to enterprising curers, were these people often necessitated to 
plunge into debt for providing fishing materials, and to en- 
counter dangers, immensely increased by their unavoidable igno- 
rance of navigation, in order to obtain subsistence and defray their 
rents. The consequences were such as might be expected. Po« 
verty soon overtook them, tending to keep alive their lacerated 
feelings, and rents, which became gradually extravagant, accumu- 
lated into a mass of arrears. 

While such was the condition of the people, the proprietor, un- 
der whose management these changes were effected, found him- 
self under the necessity of selling the inheritance of his fathers, 
and the late Duke of Sutherland became sole proprietor of the 
parish. This truly patriotic nobleman, fully alive to the evils which 
beset his new people, and the wants of this country, reduced the 
rents of the small tenants 30 per cent., and commenced a series 
of improven^ents, by opening up the country with excellent roads, 
at an enormous expense, and inducing public vehicles to run in se- 
veral directions ; by which, at once work was afforded for the people, 
and a stimulus given for a time to the herring-fishing.* Like- 
wise, with the laudable object of rendering the tenantry more com- 
fortable, they were enjoined about the same time to build new 
houses, all being upon the same plan ; and, encouraged by the 
prospect of work, they soon set about this undertaking, though the 
houses were upon a scale far too expensive for their slender means. 

* These iroprorcmenta were conducted by Mr John Horsburgh, late local factor, 
whose businesB ulents, sterling integrity, faithfulness to his employers, and attach- 
ment to the people and the country, rendered him one of the most judicious and po- 
pular of fiictors. 



In the meantime, the lamented death of the proprietor put a stop 
to improvements, and many of the people were, by the building of 
these very houses, more deeply than before plunged into debt. 
From this cause, from the failure of the fishing, and from a series 
of adverse seasons, arrears again accumulated to a great amount 

Upon the accession of the present Duke of Sutherland, his at- 
tention was arrested by this evil ; and, persuaded that, to reclaim 
these arrears, was impossible, without ruining his people, he deter- 
mined to cancel the whole. In this parish, the arrears for rent 
alone amounted to L.1582. This deed of princely generosity has 
not failed to make a suitable impression upon a people strongly 
susceptible of gratitude, and deserves to have a prominent place 
assigned it in any public account of the parish. After such con* 
duct, every one must feel that his Grace has the interest of his 
people deeply at heart. That their interest, however, may be 
really secured, it is absolutely necessary to open up for them sources 
of industry, to encourage such as are desirous to improve, and to 
' introduce a different system of agriculture from the present among 
the small tenants. 

Some of the large farms are susceptible of being extensively 
and profitably cultivated ; but the farmers, from the amount of 
capital they have already at stake, and from the shortness of their 
leases, in which there are no extensive improving conditions, are 
prevented from cultivating as they might, and as some feel in<* 
clined ; and the people are deprived of much work which they 
might otherwise have. And certainly it would be more satisfac- 
tory to see our labourers thus employed at home, than going to 
the south, where their morals are endangered ; where their ex- 
penses eat up a great proportion of their earnings ; and where, 
very frequently, they are disabled for a length of time by diseases 
caught in the wretched lodging-houses, to which they must have 
recourse, and whence they often carry infection to their native 

As to the agriculture of the small tenants, wretched as it is at 
present, it is capable of great improvement. The foundation of 
the evils now attending both it and them, is not the amount of 
rent, but the smallness of the crofts. This it is which debars a 
proper rotation, and which causes rents to be ill paid. And 
though, by the concurrence of favourable circumstances, and a 
powerful stimulus to the feelings, calling forth uncommon exer- 
tion on the part of the tenants, the rents may be defrayed once 

TONGUE. 187 

or twice, this cannot be expected to continue. For it must be 
evident, that when a people, depending mainly on the land for 
their sustenance, cannot be supported thereby more than seven or 
eight months, (which is the case in most seasons with the tenantry 
of this parish), they must expend whatever little money may be 
collected in different ways, in providing the staff of life during the 
remainder of the year. Were, however, the crofls of the tenants 
enlarged to twice their present size, and fenced in, so .as to admit 
of a proper rotation, then they would be adequate to their main* 
tenance ; and the sale of cattle, decently fed, would enable them 
with ease to pay a full rent ; whilst the produce of any day labour 
would, as it cerUiinly should, be at their own disposal. Now, 
there is scarcely a hamlet in the parish in which the arable land 
might not be doubled. That the people themselves, who have 
only one year's tenure of their land, and who can only liquidate 
their debts by work, for which they are paid in cash, should im- 
prove so extensively, is not to be expected. If done at all, the 
proprietor must pay them for their labour until a crop is efficiently 
laid down ; then a rent may be exacted, which would bring in a 
handsome interest on the outlay. 

There are many families, however, in great destitution, who 
have at present no land ; who could not, therefore, be benefited 
by the foregoing plan. Were sources of industry opened up, 
some of these might thereby be supported. But the most satis- 
factory method of disposing of these would be, to locate them in 
villages at the several fishing-stations ; to build commodious har- 
bours ; to encourage enterprising curers to settle among them ; 
and to secure a market for every species of fish : and thus, while 
the former depended wholly on the land, these should be made 
to depend wholly on the sea. Though the herring might occa- 
sionally fail, vast quantities of other fish could be caught on the 
coast, which are at present never brought to market ; and, as 
there is a probability that a steamer will soon ply on this coast 
from Caithness to Liverpool, a great inducement is held out to 
prosecute this trade with vigour. By this communication, all the 
exports of the country could obtain a ready market in the south. 

In conclusion, the writer expresses his full conviction, the re- 
sult of long observation, and many anxious thoughts on the sub- 
ject, that unless such, or some such plans are adopted regarding 
the interesting peasantry of his parish, the time will soon arrive 
when there will be no alternative but emigration, at the expense 


either of landlord or Government ; a poor law assessment, or, 
worse than either, a summary and universal ejection. Yet, rely- 
ing on the wealth and patriotic feelings of the Noble proprietor, 
and on the skill and intelligence of his agenU, he confidently ex- 
pects that these sore evils will be prevented, and that the next 
Statistical Account will have to record an improvement in the as- 
pect of the parish, and an amelioration in the condition of the 
people, which will be alike profitable and honourable to all par- 
January 184K 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 
Name. — This parish appears to have taken its name from the 
farm on which the church stands, now known as Loth-more, to 
distinguish it from the neighbouring farm of Loth-beg. Until 
the beginning of the seventeenth century, these two farms border- 
ed upon two lakes, which were formed by the river of the Glen 
of Loth being retarded in its progress to the sea, and hemmed in, 
in hollow spaces of the low flat grounds, by a rocky eminence that 
runs parallel to the sea shore. A new course for the river was 
cut in a direct line to the sea, and through the solid rock, at the 
above period ; and since that alteration, the spaces occupied by the 
lakes have been converted into rich arable land, although the extent 
and banks of the lakes can still be traced. The present name of 
Lotkf which in Gaelic is still pronounced Z^A, is, therefore, be- 
lieved to be a corruption of the word Lochj which, in the Scotch 
dialect, is descriptive of a sheet of water, in the same sense as the 
word in old German signified, — namely, apertura^ hiatus^ or cavitas 
rotunda ; or, as Cambden has it, ^^ a place where rivers are stop^ 
ped.*' This etymology also agrees with the spelling of the 
name in ancient writings; and thus, in a Crown charter of the 
year 1451, the present Loth-more, — the site of the church and 

* Drawn up by George Sutherland Taylor, Esq. Golspie. 

LOTH. 189 

manse, — is called ^' Ville de Esiirlochj** the same being situated 
to the eastward of Loth-beg. The glen, also, through which the 
river of Loth flows is, in old writings, called ** the Glen of hoih," 
and not Glen^Lathj as it is now most frequently named ; thereby 
denoting that the glen was an appendage to the farm of Loth, 
iiffitead of having a descriptive or distinct name of its own. 

It may be added, however, as a remarkable fact connected with 
this name, that Ptolemy places the Loffi along the sea coast, of 
which the south boundary of the present parish of Loth forms a 
part ; the Ila Jlumen (the river Ullie or Helmsdale) being in 
their country, which seemed to extend between Veriibiumproman^ 
torium (the Ord of Caithness) and Ripa alta^ (the Ardross range 
of mountains towards Tarbetness). And Richard of Cirencester, 
in his description of Caledonia, assigns the same locality to the 
Logiy and says, after naming the Cantce, and Promontorium Pe- 
noxuUumf (the high ground of the present Oykill,) '' Huic ordine 
proximus est Jluvius Abona (the Dornoch Frith) ejusdemque ac- 
eolae Logi. Hinc Ila fluvius," &c. 

Boundaries^ Extent, Topographical Appearances. — The parish 
extends in a straight line from west to east, about eleven miles 
in length; and its breadth, where broadest, from Ben-Uarie to 
the sea, is about five miles. The boundary line, if taken at 
the sea shore at the Bay of Kintradwell, proceeds northward 
to the top of KoUieben, and thence along a ridge of high hills, 
and in a half-circular sweep, by west and north, to the top of 
Ben-Uarie, (1923 feet high,) and then eastward by the sum- 
mit of the. high ground between the Strath of Kildonan and the 
glen of Loth, and, intersecting the top of the Crask, on to Ben 
Veallich, (1888 feet high,) and to the top of Knock Elderaboll ; 
thence, down to the plane of the Strath of Kildonan and the river 
Helmsdale, at a point about three miles above the mouth of that 
river. Thereafter, following the river downwards for about one 
mile, the march ascends the east side of the valley, and, running 
nearly parallel with the tine of sea coast, and at a distance of about 
two miles from it, terminates to the north of the Hill of the Ord, 
at the march with the county of Caithness. From this last point 
to the sea, the boundary between Sutherland and Caithness forms 
also the eastern boundary of the parish, and runs southward to the 
steep front of the Ord at the sea, and is marked out by a low turf 
wall, erected about thirty-five years ago, when this part of the 
march between the two counties, as to which there existed some 


differences, was finally adjusted and fixed by arbitration. From 
the Ord to the Bay of Kintradwell, the sea shore is the southern 
boundary. The parish of Loth is therefore bounded on the west 
by the parish of Clyne ; on the north by the parish of Kildonan ; 
on the east by the parish of Latheron ; and on th6 south by the 
German Ocean, or rather by that part of it distinguished as the 
Moray Frith, which is here about forty miles broad. 

The whole length of the parish along its northern boundary is dis- 
tinguished by a ridge of high hills, which slope down towards the 
south with a steep descent, except at the contracted opening form- 
ed by the Strath of Kildonan, where the inarch crosses the low 
grounds of the valley from the summits of the hills that enclose 
it. This lofty range is placed nearly parallel with the line of sea 
coast which limits the parish to the south, and at a distance of 
from one to three miles from it ; the intervening space between 
the hills and the sea being either gently sloping ground, partially 
.cgultivated, and otherwise yielding sound natural pasture; or a le- 
vel flat of rich alluvial soil, all arable, and in a high state of culti- 
vation ; but at the eastern extremity of the parish, the huge head- 
land of the Ord leaves no intermediate space between the moun- 
tain and the sea, but forms a sheer and abrupt wall, rising with 
great majesty from, and towering above, the ever-heaving and deep 
sea, whose only strand, at the lowest tides, is the perpendicular 
face of the rock. 

This headland of the Ord* has been at all times an object of 
great interest to strangers; and before the present Parliamentary 
road from Sutherland into Caithness was formed, in the year 1811, 
the path — for it did not deserve the name of a road — along the 

* The oldest name of the Ord, with the exception of Veruhium promonioriutn of 
Ptolemy, to be found in ancient writings, is Mons Mound, which appears in the cu- 
rious geographical fragment headed " De Situ Albaniee," and which has been attri- 
buted to Andrew Bishop of Caithness, who died in 1 185. He divides Scotland into 
seven parts, and, no doubt, aUuding to the Diocesg of Caithness, which included the 
counties of Sutherland and Caithness, says : ^*- Septima enim pars est Cathane^ia 
citra montem et ultra montcm ; quid ^fon8 Mound dividit Cathanesiam per medium.** 
In the geographical collections in the Advocates* Library, called Macfarlane*8 MSS., 
several references arc also made to the Ord. Thus: *^ All that tract of land which 
lies betwixt Port.nacouter (the Dornoch Frith) and Dungsbay, (Duncansbay head,) 
was of old called Cattey. That part of it which lies eastward from the hill Ord was 
named Catteyncss, and afterwards Cathness, the Promontory of Cattey. That on 
this side the Ord, was called simply Cattey, and afterwards, for distinction's sake. 
South Cattey and Sutherland, which to this day, in the language of the natives and 
Highlanders, retains the name of Cattey, as the Sutherland men were called Catteigh, 
and the Earl of Sutherland Morvar Cattey.** And again,— ^' Sutherland is separat- 
ed and divided from Catteyness by the brook or stripe called Aldituver, (should be 
Ault-in-uder,) and by the hill called Ord or Mond, with a range of other hills 
which do stretch from the south sea to the north ocean.'* 

LOTH. 191 

outer edge of the rock, and without any protection from the pre- 
cipice that overhangs the sea, could not, with any degree of safe- 
ty, be passed in stormy weather, and never failed to inspire indi- 
viduals not accustomed to such passes, with great dread ; and 
among other travellers of the last century who describe the ter- 
rors of the passage across the Ord, the Rev. John Brand, in his 
Description of Orkney, Shetland, and Caithness in the year 1701, 
says, " The Ord which divideth Caithness from Sutherland is a 
high mountain, as the name Ord, which in Irish signifieth an height, 
doth imply, down which our way from Caithness to Sutherland 
doth lie. The road is but narrow, and the descent steep, and if 
any stumble thereupon, they are in hazard of falling down a pre- 
cipice into the sea at the bottom of the rock, which is very terrible 
to behold ; but who pass it for the more security, use to lead their 
liorses to the foot of the hill, which is about a short mile in length, 
and no other way there is from Sutherland to Caithness, or from 
Caithness to Sutherland, but this, except we go 12 miles about" 
The Glen of Loth is a narrow opening of about three miles in 
extent, surrounded by the highest hills in the parish, and is one 
of those wild glens, characteristic of a Highland district, which the 
superstition of former ages invested with traditional tales of wonder 
and terror. The glen, at the foot of an abrupt and prominent 
hill called Drumderg, was the scene of a bloody conflict between 
the men of Strathnaver and those of Loth in the sixteenth cen- 
tury ; and it possesses several objects to which the traditions of 
the country have given celebrity. Thus, a large cairn, called 
Cairn-Bran^ marks the place where Ossian's dog Bran is said to 
have died, and been buried. At Caim-in-uag^ an ancient hunt- 
ing-house stood. Tober Massan is the name of a well of excel- 
lent water, which, in former ages, was resorted to as a specific for 
almost all diseases, provided silver or gold was left in the water 
for the officiating priest Clach Mac-meas is a huge upright 
stone, which a precocious youth, at the tender age of one month, 
in that interesting period of the world's history, when " giants of 
mighty bone and bold emprise," dwelt in the land, hurled to the 
bottom of the glen from the top of Ben-Uarie. Carriken-^ligk 
are four stone pillars on an elevated barrow, that point out the 
resting-place of some leading men of a remote period ; and con- 
nected with this glen, and forming the very close and singular 
sides of a small burn that runs into it, are the lofty cliffs called 
Craig- Boddich and Craig- Bhokie^ remarkable not only for their 


towering and perpendicular height, but for the very narrow space 
that separates them.* 

The arable portion of the parish, between the hills along its 
northern boundary and the sea, is generally flat, and its naturally 
rich and fertile soil is well cultiyated. The ravines formed by 
mountain streams, which intersect the south side of the hills at 
distances of two or three miles, are striking features in the land- 
scape ; particularly one of them, AuUkolliej which is a remarkably 
deep, tortuous, and romantic gully. The sea coast is, with the 
exception of a few low rocky headlands, sandy and shallow, from 
the western extremity of the parish to Port- Grower; and thence 
to the Ord, the shore is one continued line of rock or rough gravel ; 
but no part of the coast affords any natural protection for shipping. 

Meteorology. — The changes of the atmosphere have not been 
registered or ascertained by continued observations in this parish. 
The complete range of high hills that forms the northern and 
eastern boundaries of the parish, affords great shelter from the 
cold and piercing winter, and spring winds from these quarters ; 
and consequently, during the prevalence of such winds, the greater 
mildness of the atmosphere in this parish, compared with that 
along the more exposed sea coast on the Caithness side of the 
Ord, is often remarked by persons travelling between the two 
counties. The opening of the Strath of Kildonan at Helmsdale 
may be an exception to this remark, for there the wind, when high 
and coming down from the strath, is felt with peculiar violence. 
The parish is decidedly healthy, and instances of longevity are 
common ; and at present, a small tenant and his wife, whose 
ages are not correctly known, have been united in marriage for the 
long period of eighty years. There are no distempers peculiar to 
the parish ; but in 1832, Asiatic cholera appeared very suddenly, 
and for the first time north of Aberdeen, at Helmsdale, during 
the busiest period of the herring fishery, and in that town and 
neighbourhood between thirty and forty persons died of it This 
mysterious disease was believed to have been introduced into the 
parish by some fishermen who then arrived at Helmsdale from 
the«Frith of Forth, where the disease was raging at the time ; and 
it is certain that the first person who was seized with it in the pa- 
rish, was a female while in the act of washing clothes, belonging to 

* The writer of Uiis report furnished notices of the forest traditions connected 
with the Glen of Loth for Mr Scrope*8 Art of Deer Stalking, which are inserted ra 
that work. 


LOTH. 193 

one of the fishermen who came from an infected quarter near 
£ dinburgh. 

Hydrography. — The Moray Frith, the uEstuarium Vararis of 
Ptolemy, and the Breidafiord of the Northern sagas, is here a 
wide and stormy sea, without any islands. The projecting and 
bhiff headland of the Ord affects the currents along the shore ; 
and these currents, in the opinion of many practical fishermen, in- 
fluence and direct the progress and course of those shoals of her- 
rings which annually visit this coast ; and hence, a continuance of 
the success which has attended the herring fishery at Helmsdale, 
since it has been regularly prosecuted there, may be found to rest 
on more certain and durable causes than are generally supposed to 
exist The saltness of the sea water off the Ord has been analyzed, and 
it has been ascertained to be much greater than that of water taken at 
Tarbartness, at the opening of the Dornoch Frith ; while the water 
at the latter point contains about double the quantity of salt found in 
water taken within the Frith, between the towns of Dornoch and Tain. 
There are now no lakes within the parish,'and the only rivers are those 
of the Glen of Loth and the Helmsdale, which last flows for about 
three miles along or within the parish, before it enters the sea at 
Helmsdale. The Helmsdale is a large and handsome stream ; 
but, having had no bridge across it until 1811, it retarded travel- 
lers ; and Pennant, in his tour in the northern counties in 1769, 
records, that he had to *^ ford the very dangerous water of Helms- 
dale, rapid and full of great stones." 

Geology. — The high hills of the parish present a steep front to 
the south, and are of primary formation, being composed of por- 
phyritic granite, chiefly of a brown colour, but often reddish and 
sometimes gray. This stone is fragile, and, as it cannot be quar- 
ried in large blocks, or formed into well-proportioned shapes, 
it is of little use for building. This stone is also distinguished 
by different degrees of coarseness in its grains, and by the pre- 
sence of veins of a large size. Thus, in the bed of the river 
Helmsdale, close to the march with Kildonan, a fine-grained por- 
phyry occurs ; and at Lothbeg, and thence to the west end of the 
parish, the same rock is a very rude compound, with large vetns, 
in which felspar predominates, and which yield readily to the ac- 
tion of running water. 

In Mr Cunningham's Geognostical Account of the County of 
Sutherland, published in the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, 
No. 46, that gentleman includes the coast side, or low-lying sec- 
tion of this parish, as part of the district in which the oolite se- 


ries which he describes is developed ; and as his description is mi- 
nute and interesting, it is added in a note below.* 

About one-half of the whole stretch of sea coast in this parish, or 
from the west end of it to Port Gower, is a sandy beach, with the 
exception of low rocks covered durinf^ full tides, but forming nar- 
row promontories during low water, which, at irregular intervals, 
break the uniformity of the sandy beach ; and, with the exception 
also of occasional deposits of boulder stones of various rocks, pri- 

* ** Af\er leaving Brora, the oolite strata are completely coveredf until we arrive 
St Kintradwell, where a series is to be found dipping, in general north, at an angle 
of about 20°. At a short distance from the House of Kintradwell, there is a beauti- 
ful example of what may be termed a false or pseudo-vein, which consists of a 
mass of quartzMe sandstone, 76 yards in length by two feet in breadth, and 
traverses vertically slaty sandstone strata, inclined to the north north>ea$t at 
SO**. Laying aside the species of rock which forms this vcinous mass, every 
variety of form exhibited in the usual trap dikes, is to be found. It runs the 
same uninterrupted course, has the same definite lines of boundary, and in several 
places sends out latcral^branches. Indeed, if we keep theory apart from hcu, this is, 
as far as visible, as perfect a vein as any composed of a rock whose origin is consider, 
cd consonant with an eruptive and veinous form. As a proof that the present posi- 
lion of this sandstone vein is not its original one, we may state that the remains of 
plants which occur in it are all arranged parallelly to the sides of the vein ; where- 
as, if it had been quietly deposited in a previously existing rent, they would all have 
had a more or less horizontal arrangement. 

^* Between Kintradwell and Helmsdale, the oolite series, when visible over a consi- 
derable extent, affords marks of much derangement, and frequently dips within thort 
spaces to various points at various angles. Associated with the wiiite lias sandstone 
near Port Gower, one of the brownish -red colour is to be met with, having the usual 
character of the red sandstone of the coal formation; shale also of green, purple, 
and brown sliades, is found to alternate with it. On the shore at Helmsdale, at Loth, 
and several other points, the oolite sandstone occurs, containing beds of conglome- 
rate, composed of variously sized masses of the sandstones, shales, and limestones of 
the series ; but this may easily be explained, by supposing, that, after the deposition 
of some of the strata, they were acted upon by destructive agents, and again reconso- 
lidated. After leaving the junction at Clyne, no other is discoverable until we ar> 
rive at the ravine of Alt Colle. Here the same conformability again appears, both 
series dipping in a disturbed manner. The quartz rock is the same as that already 
noticed, and in this and an adjoining glen, is found to afford numerous weU-raarked 
contortions. At the bridge of Loth- Beg, the quartz rock is replaced by granite, and 
an almost immediate junction of the oolite and the granite may be observed, the stra- 
ta of the former dipping north north-east at an angle of 40**. At Port Gower, this 
position is completely reversed, the lines of stratification, if prolonged, sinking un- 
der the granite. 

*< At the Green Table near the Ord of Caithness, and at several points along the 
shore, a conglomerate of the oolite series is found to rest immediately on the granite 
at angles of 40". Its apparently disturbed arrangement and mode of formation, have, 
by Professor Sedgwick and Mr M urchison, been explained by referring them to the 
action of the granite ; the fiict of its not being indurated or traversed by veins, being 
considered as explicable by supposing that the granite had been elevated in a solid 
sta|^ after its original fluid protrusion through the primitive strata. One reason for 
not adopting this theoretical view, exists in the fact, that the same conglomerate may be 
found, connected with the sandstones of the series, at points where there is no granite 
in the neighbourhood. To say that highly inclined and mineralogically unaltered 
strata, when in connection with granite, have assumed their angular position, by the 
granite being upheaved in a solid state, is a doctrine which is completely unsupport- 
ed by all that is known in r^ard to volcanic dynamics, and exists only as a very un- 
warrantable hypothesis. To imagine that all rocks inclined at high angles have been 
upraised subsequcDtly to their formation, must lead to very false conclusions ; and 
can never be adopted to its full extent, by any who have examined the disposition of 
mountain debris, and the high angle at which a talus may be accumulated.*' 

LOTH. 195 

mitive, transition, and secondary, which the storms of centuries 
have collected in the bay of Kintradwell, and in one or two simi- 
lar localities. From Port Gower to the extremity of the parish at 
the Ord, the sea shore is formed of one continued and rugged mar- 
gin of limestone, part of the oolitic formation referred to by Mr 
Cunningham. Thb stone has often been burnt into hme, which 
was found to be of excellent quality ; but the extra expense of fuel 
at a place remote from coal markets, increased the expense of the 
manufacture beyond the price at which English lime can be de- 
livered in the parish ; and besides, the encroachments of the sea 
on this coast require that the natural rocky barrier, which present- 
ly exists, should not be weakened or reduced by the removal of 
any part of it. 

Zoology. — The only rare species of animal now found in the 
parish is the red-deer (Cervus elaphus)^ which occasionally wan- 
der from the interior recesses of the county, into the corries and 
passes of Ben Uarie and Ben Veallicb. The fox, once so destruc- 
tive to the farmer, has been extirpated ; and one of the last wolves 
killed in the county of Sutherland was destroyed in the Glen of 
Loth, some time between the years 1690 and 1700* 

The cattle, sheep, horses, and hogs, reared in the parish, arc 
all superior animals, and often obtain the highest prizes, when ex- 
hibited at public competitions. The fishes that may be said to 
belong to Loth are extremely important and valuable. The sal- 
mon of the Helmsdale are of a large size, and the river being 
fished by the proprietor, the Duke of Sutherland, the utmost at- 
tention is directed to the proper mode of fishing, which annually 
closes two weeks before the legal period, in order to allow a 
greater number of spawning fish to ascend the river; and the 
spawning-beds and fry are afterwards carefully protected ; but no 
peculiarity in the habits of the fish have been observed in this 
river. Of sea fish, the herring is the most valuable, and when 
they approach this part of the coast in the months of July and 
August, are in prime condition, and of very superior quality. Cod 
are also got in great numbers, and excel in quality and size those 
obtained in the upper waters of the Frith; and abundance of 4iad- 
dock, skate, and whiting are constantly obtained. Turbot are 
plentiful at a distance of some miles from the coast; but the fisher- 
men have no inducement to follow the deep-sea fishing. Lobsters 
and crabs are, at present, very numerous, but the former were so 

* Scxope's Art of Y}eQr Stalking contains an account of this occurrence. 


severely fished some years ago, by fishing- smacks, for the London 
market, that it was, for some time thereafter, thought that the lob- 
ster had been exterminated along the coast. 

Botany. — Rare native plants are seldom met with in the parish ; 
but the cultivated vegetable productions are important and of the 
best quality. With the exception of a clump of Scotch firs at 
Kintradwell, and some stately sycamore and ash-trees at Kilmote, 
and a few straggling young trees at Midgarty and Port Gower, 
there is no growing wood in the parish. The grains raised in the 
arable lands, are of superior quality, and ripen early and with little 
risk, even in un&vourable seasons. The deep carse soil in the 
centre of the parish, yields all descriptions of grain, — ^wheat, barley, 
oats, beans, and pease ; but the quality of the barley of this dis- 
trict is so superior, that its cultivation is the chief object of the 
farmer; and large parcels of this grain have been raised of late years 
in the parish, which weighed 57^ lb. per bushel ; while one small 
parcel raised at Crakaig weighed 59 lb. The herbage of the 
hills and moorlands, however, do not excel similarly situated pas- 
turages in their neighbourhood ; and no rare plants appear in the 
uncultivated lands, unless we enumerate as such, Eriophorumf in 
boggy places ; Primula farinosoj in two or three plats of meadow ; 
Viola lutea in sheltered slopes of rivulets ; and the fragrant Jlfy- 
rica ffaky in marshes and soft grounds. Vaccinium myrtilhis, the 
blaeberry, and F. oxt/coccos, afford their wild native fruits, along 
some of the sides of the highest mountains ; and F. mtis-idcBaj 
the red bilberry, is common in less elevated moorlands. The 
steep and comparatively dry sides of the hills to the north of 
Navidale are adorned with some of the richest and most luxu- 
riant furze-bushes, Ulex EuropcBus^ to be met with in the north of 
Scotland, and which, when brilliant with their splendid golden 
blossoms, far exceed in wild beauty and richness, any other of our 
native plants, and invest with credit the anecdote of Linnaeus, 
who, for the first time, saw the furze on his visit to England in 
1736, and was so enraptured with it, that it is said he fell on his 
knees in order to admire its bright blossoms. Another common 
plaift, the spear-thistle, Carduus lanceolatus^ rears its stately 
and barbed-head,, along the line of the old road across the 
Ord, in such great numbers as to justify the assertion, that the 
national emblem of Scotland is the decorative crest of the bold 
sea-front of the Ord, — one of the most characteristic headlands of 
ancient Caledonia. In the barren shingle along the sea shore, 

LOTH. 197 

between Helmsdale and the Ord, Pulmonaria maritima^ a rare 
plant on the northern shores, attracts attention by its beautiful 
azure leaves. The rocky parts of the coast of the parish also fur- 
nish several species of Fuci^ and, in such abundance that, before 
the reduction in the pric« of the kelp, about thirty tons of kelp were 
annually manu&ctured in the parish ; but the present price of the 
article would not pay the expense of manufacturing it ; and no sea- 
ware has been burnt for several years past The best known species 
of Rid on this coast, are Fucus digitatusy F. palmattiSi F. vestcultn 
gusf F. nodiuuSf F. serratuSf and F,flum. 

II. — Civil History. 

There is no separate history of this parish known to exist ; but 
many events and occurrences connected with its annals are recorded 
in Sir Robert Gordon's History of the Earldom of Sutherland, 
which was written in the year 1630. 

The only direct land route to Caithness, and by the Pentland 
Firth to Orkney, being through this parish, it has, at different 
times, witnessed the march of hostile forces, and has often been 
the scene of disturbance and violence. During the inroads of the 
Northmen in, and preceding, the twelfth century, the coast of Loth 
appears to have been often visited by these daring invaders ; and 
Helmsdale, a name evidently derived from them, is believed to be 
identical with the name ** Hialmaidaly^ which occurs in one 
of the northern sagas. In the year 1198, the parish received a 
royal visit, on the occasion of King William the Lion's march 
into Caithness, to revenge the cruel death of John Bishop of Caith- 
ness;* for an ancient MS. descriptive of his expedition states, 
that the King had a great army, ^* and marched till he came to 
Eysteinsdale, — there are the boundaries of Katanes and Sudrland, 
-»the camp of the King of Scots stretched along the Dais, and that 
is a very long way." These Dales are believed to have been the 
valleys of Kildonan, terminating at Helmsdale, and Strathmore in 
Caithness, which communicate with each other, ** and that is a 
very long way ;" and in the last of which valleys, there is a place 
still called Easterdale. 

During the turbulent ages that succeeded King William's ex- 

• «* During King William's absence, Harold Earl of Orkney and Caithness ap- 
prehended John Bishop of Caithness, cut out bis tongue, and put out his eyes, for 
having opposed some designs of his at Court. For which King William upon his 
return, caused the Earl to be apprehended, cut out his tongue, pulled out his eyes, 
and then hang^ him upon a gibbet. These things happened in the year 1198."— 
BUhop ElplAntUm. 


pedition, Loth, being a border parish, was exposed to all the sud- 
den inroads and craicks arising from the hostility which the inha- 
bitants of two adjoining districts, separated by a marked natural 
barrier, such as Sutherland and Caithness are, fostered against 
each other, before the blessings of regular government and the 
impartial administration of equal laws, were experienced ; and the 
parish also suffered very much from the lawless depredations 
committed by fugitives, and persons of desperate character, who 
sought for temporary shelter amidst the solitary recesses of the 
Qrd ; and the tales still, or very lately, lingering in the neigh- 
bourhood, with reference to these freebooters between the two 
counties, agree in spirit and tendency, with the sympathy expres- 
sed in some of the popular ballads of the period, in such terms, as, 

Alas ! that e*er such laws were made, 

To hang a man for gear ; 
Either for stealing cow or sheep, 

Or yet for horse or mare : 
Had not the laws then l)ccn so strict, 

I had never lost my joy ; 
But now he lodges with Auld Nick 

That hanged my Gilderoy.** 

But, notwithstanding the existence of this popular feeling, it is 
stated in Sir Robert Gordon's History, that, in the year 1617, a 
gibbet was erected on the top of the Ord, where ** some notable 
robbers that exercised all kynd of thift, and other misdemeanors 
in Southerland, Catteynes, and Rosse, were hanged.*' 

The disastrous battle of Floudden was fought on 9th Septem- 
ber 1513, and, shortly before then, a gallant body of Caithness- 
men, headed by their Earl, marched through this parish on their 
way to join the Scottish army. These brave men and their lead- 
er met with an honourable death on the field of battle ; but as 
they happened, when leaving Caithness, to cross the Ord on a 
Monday, and were dressed in a green uniform, there still exists a 
popular aversion among the natives of the district, to take a 
journey over the Ord on that day of the week, or in a green-co- 
loured coat. 

Passing over those other historical events connected with this 
parish, which are already before the public, in Sir Robert Gor- 
don's History, the next prominent occurrence was the appearance 
of about 700 Argyle Highlanders on their march into Caithness, 
in the summer of 1 679, in order to support the King's patent to 
the Earldom of Caithness, which had been granted on 28th June 
1677, in favour of John Campbell of Gleoorchy, afterwards creat- 

LOTH. 199 

ed Earl of Breadalbane. This expedition, which terminated in 
the battle of Altimarlach, to the westward of Wick, is remarkable 
as indicating the peculiar condition of Scotland at that compara- 
tively recent period, which admitted a subject to arm his vassals, 
and wage war, in support of his private legal claims. It was dur- 
ing the march northwards of the men of Glenorcby, on this occa- 
sion, that the well known quickstep airs, ^^ The Campbells are 
coming," and " The Braes of Glenorchy," obtained their names. 

The Rebellions in 1715 and 1745, occasioned the arming of the 
male population of this parish, in support of the reigning dynasty. 
During the retreat of the insurgents before the battle of CuUoden, 
in 1746, Lord Loudon was stationed in Dornoch, with some com- 
panies of the King's troops; but, hearing of the advance into Ross- 
shire of a large force under the Duke of Perth, with the intention 
of attacking him. Lord Loudon and his men abruptly retired to 
the westward^ leaving the whole county of Sutherland unprotect. 
ed« The Earl of CromartV} with a considerable force, instantly 
marched through Sutherland into Caithness, with the intention of 
collecting together such men in that latter county, as might be in- 
clined to join the rebel army ; and the Earl's men, among other 
outrages committed by them against individuals and private pro- 
perty, burnt, in this parish, the mansion-houses of Kintradwell and 
Crakaig, and disinterred the corpse of a person recently interred 
in the burying-ground at Navidale, who had been the relative of 
a zealous royalist at that place, and left the partly decayed body 
in his bed, — he having previously fled from his home on the ap- 
proach of the enemy. These proceedings exasperated the parish 
people ; and two of Lord Cromarty's officers, who had wandered 
into the glen of Loth, on their return from Caithness, were killed 
there by three countrymen who met them. Before the return 
from Caithness of this invading force, the militia of the county had 
time to assemble, and having attacked them to the west of Golspie, 
the Earl of Cromarty's forces were defeated in a running fight 
between Rhives and the Little Ferry, and the Earl, and almost 
all his officers and men who were not slain, were taken prisoners. 
This occurred two days before the battle of Culloden was fought ; 
and while the Earl was hurrying south to join the rebel army. 

Ltand'Owners. — His Grace the Duke and Earl of Sutherland is 
heritor of the whole parish, which, at all times, formed part of 
the ancient Earldom of Sutherland. 

Parochial RegUters. — There is no register of births and mar- 


riages for this parish^ of any earlier date than the close of the last 
century ; and this is a defect common to almost all the neighbour- 
ing parishes, which has been often attended with the most vexa- 
tious and injurious consequences to persons in humble life, who 
required to establish their propinquity to deceased and remote re- 
latives. Older registers may have existed ; but, as there was no 
legal provision for the care and preservation of such records, the 
system under which they were entrusted to the parish schoolmas- 
ters, afforded little or no security for their preservation. All pa- 
rish registers are now under better and safer management than 
formerly ; but many persons who have directed their attention to 
the matter, are convinced, that, as national records, the parish 
registers of Scotland admit of being placed under more strict con- 
trol, and more certain protection, than have yet been devised for 
insuring their full public benefits. 

Antiquities. — The old Castle of Helmsdale, situate on an ele- 
vated green bank, close to the River of Helmsdale, where it min- 
gles with the sea water, is the only remarkable ruin now remaining 
in the parish. The date of its erection is not known : but the building 
is of that square form, with sharp angles, generally attributed to 
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in the north of Scotland. 
It was a hunting-seat of the Sutherland family, adjoining the old 
deer-forest of Sledale, and the Ord, and is distinguished in the 
annals of the county, as the place where John, the eleventh Earl 
of Sutherland, and his Countess, were both poisoned in July ]567, 
in a diabolical, but fortunately abortive attempt to poison the 
whole family, and thereby divert the succession to their honours 
and estates, out of the direct line of descent. Several of those 
very ancient edifices, known as circular or Pictish towers, stood 
formerly in the parish of Loth, and one of them, at Lothbeg, was 
entire at the time Pennant visited the county in 1769. It is now 
only distinguished as a circular cairn of small stones. Another of 
these towers stood at Wilkhouse ; one to the east of Midgarty ; and 
a very large one, called Dun-Phailj crowned the brow of the high 
ground, close to the public road, and about half-way between 
Port Gower and Helmsdale. The foundation of this last tower 
could only be traced of late years, and the large stones forming 
that foundation have been dug up recently for building purposes. 
The old Hunting House in the Glen of Loth, of which Pennant 
gives a plan, has also disappeared. * 

* Pennant's description of the above hunting houses is, that '* They consist of a 
gallery, with a number of small rooms on the sides, each formed of three large stones, 

LOTH. 201 

Id the west side uf the steep bank of the Kintradwell Burn, an 
artificial opening or cave, and built and roofed with stone, called 
Coah'-geavag^ now shut by an accumulation of soil and rubbish, is 
said to lead to subterranean apartments, which, from descriptions 
giyeu by persons who entered them, before the mouth of the cave 
became impeded, are supposed to have been places of refuge or 
sepulchre. At a remote period, a chapel, called after St Ninian, 
stood at Navidale, and another, called John the Baptist's Chapel, 
close to the present bridge of Helmsdale ; and at both these places, 
there are burying-grounds, still used as such. Another of these 
chapels stood at Easter Garty, the ruins of which are still recol- 
lected ; and it is said that a fourth stood at Kintradwell, called St 
Trullew's Chapel, although the existence of this last one is not 
certain. Several barrows and tumuli are scattered throughout the 
parish, and the heads of ancient stone battle-axes have been found 
in some cairns supposed to point out the resting-place of persons 
slain in conflicts ; and at Strone-Rungie^ a low-lying point of the 
coast between Culgower and Wester Garty, a number of battle 
cairns still mark the place where it is said foreign invaders were 

successfully opposed and overcome. 

III. — Population. 
The population of Loth has been, for several years past, and is 

rapidly increasing. The early state of its population cannot be 
traced satisfactorily ; but some occasional facts have been ascer- 
tained, which warrant the conclusion, that the number of inhabi- 
tants was stationary for the last two hundred years, until about the 
year 1811. Thus, in February 1651, the " Committee of War," for 
the shire, in fixing the number of men for a militia regiment, 
allocated those from the parish of Loth as follows : 

'* Clynetraidwall and two davochs of Lothbeg, ... 7 men. 

The three davoch lands of Cracaik and ye davoch of Lothe and ye glen, . 7 
LotheriDora and Eister Helmisdaill, . . . . 7 

Culgor, West Garthie, and West Helmisdaiil, ... 7 

Marie, Midgarthle, and East Garthie, .... 7 

Navidaill, ...... 2 


These numbers of selected fighting men bear about the same 
proportion to the strength of the regiment then raised, which the 

Tix. one on each side, and a third by way of covering. Tliese are made with the 
Tast Bags this country is famous for. At the extremity, is a larger apartment, of an 
oval figure, probably the quarters of the chieftain. The passage or gallery is without 
a roof, — a proof that they were only temporary habitations. Their length is from 
fifty to sixty feet. These buildings arc only in places where the great flags are plen- 
tiful. In Glen Loth are three, and are called by the country people Uags.*^ 



parish afforded of males able to carry arms, and between the ages 
of 16 and 60, in the year of the last Rebellion 1745, when nearly 
8000 men were enrolled as militiamen, on the estate of Suther 
land. At this last period, the relative proportion also of men from 
each of the townships, does not much differ from the allocation in 
1651, — thus: 

Kintradwell, and part of Lothbeg, . . 33 men. 

Crakaig, Loth, and the Glen, . . 41 

Lothmore and Easter Helmsdale^ . . 33 

Culgotrer, Wester Garty, and West Helmsdale, 88 

Marril, Midgarty, and East Garty, . . 22 

Navidalc, .... 14 


The Government returns give the following result for this pa- 
rish : 

In 1801, the population was 1374 

1811, 1330 

1821, 2008 

1831. . 2234 

This increase is to be attributed to the successful establishment 
of the herring-fishery at Helmsdale, and to the settlement of se- 
veral small tenants in that track of improvable land, chiefly near 
the coast, from Port Gower to Navidale. These causes of the 
increase have been in very active operation since the date of the 
last Government census, and, without attempting to anticipate, in 
exact numbers, the probable increase since that period, by trust- 
ing to any less authentic data than the census to be taken in the 
present year, it is believed by the reporter, that the increase will 
at least equal that which has occurred during the last two decades, 
or between the years 1811 and 1831. 

The erection of houses in Helmsdale, which, with the excep- 
tion of Port Gower, is the only village in the parish, is not only 
annually on the increase : but the accommodation they afford, and 
the style of building, are improving. This town, begun in 1818, has 
been regularly and steadily increasing since then; and the houses be- 
ing all new, and substantially built, and all roofed with slatesor tiles, 
and the streets regular, the general appearance of the whole place 
is as pleasing to a stranger as the prosperity of its principal trade, 
and the internal comforts of its dwellings, have been important 
and creditable to the inhabitants. 

There is no marked peculiarity in the habits of the people of the 
parish, or in their style or manner of dress. They are generally 
frugal in their mode of living, but have a laudable anxiety to ap- 

LOTH. 203 

pear at all times in becoming and respectable apparel. The na- 
tive language of the country people is Gaelic, but almost all of 
them speak or understand English, and it may be said that all 
young persons, male and female, are able to read and write. The 
baneful but often alluring vices of poaching and smuggling have 
]ong ago ceased within the parish, in consequence, chiefly, of the 
superior and comfortable condition in which almost all the heads 
of families in it are placed, as tenants holding directly, at very mo- 
derate rents, under their landlord, independent of intermediate dic- 
tation over their time and industry ; and which healthy position pre- 
cludes all desire to engage in the ruinous practice of illegal of- 
fences. The general character of the population is that of a decid- 
edly moral, religious, and industrious people ; and nowhere are the 
safety and security of individuals, and the rights of property, more 
respected and upheld, and less interfered with, than in the parish 
of Loth. 

IV. — Industry. 

Agriculture. — The arable lands may conveniently be classed in- 
to large farms, and the allotments possessed by small tenants. 
There are seven large farms in the parish, which, besides valuable 
ranges of low-lying and hill pastures, have among them 1 182 acres 
of arable land, equal in fertility to any others in the county* 
These farms are held under leases of nineteen years endurance, 
and are laboured under the five years shift of husbandry, having 
annually one-fifth part in fallow, turnips, potatoes, or other green 
crop ; one-fifth part in grass one year old ; one-fifth part in grass 
two years old ; and not more than two-fifth parts in corn crop. 
All the farms are conveniently subdivided, and enclosed with sub- 
stantial.stone dikes, and the farm buildings are modern and suitable. 

The lands held by the small tenants are also laboured with con- 
siderable skill and industry ; and each tenant raises annually bar- 
ley or bear, oats, and potatoes, besides small patches of turnips and 
sown grasses, and maintains one or more cows, and often rears his 
young cattle, and possesses one of the small hardy horses of the 
country, and a few of the small native sheep, besides swine and 
poultry in abundance. Their cottages, formerly very rude and 
mean, have been wisely removed by themselves, in situations where 
they were placed on improvable land, to more sterile parts of their 
lots, in order to convert all that can be rendered arable into corn 
land ; and hence, the comfortable stone cottages, of improved con- 
struction, which they now occupy, are generally placed on the 


highest ridges and more rocky eminences of the different town- 
ships. The industry with which the trenching and improving of 
hitherto waste land is carried on by these small tenants, is easily ac- 
counted for, when it is stated, that no advance of rent follows in con- 
sequenceof any improvement orprogressiveamelioration of the soil; 
that the whole benefits resulting from these causes have been enjoy- 
ed exclusively by the tenants, and that the rents have been placed on 
such a reasonable scale, that there was not a single sixpence of the 
rents of the whole parish left unpaid on last audit day; and that such 
a proceeding as a distraint for rent has not been known among these 
tenants, for a long period of years. In addition to these mighty 
advantages, the whole allotments of the small tenants are very ju- 
diciously intersected by branch roads, along which the important 
article of fuel, — peats of excellent quality, — are readily carted home 
from the neighbouring hill mosses, and the necessary removal of 
manure and other field operations are effected with great facility. 

Fislieries. — The most important fisheries belonging to the pa- 
rish, are those of salmon in the river Helmsdale, and the herring- 
fishery at the village of Helmsdale. The former has been cele- 
brated from the oldest period of which we have record, as produc- 
tive and valuable. For several years past, the river has been fish- 
ed directly by the servants of the proprietor, who, avoiding all 
close and severe fishing, and taking every means to protect the 
spawning fish when ascending the river, and the fry afterwards, 
besides closing the fishing season, at least two weeks before the 
time fixed by law, (and which is also done in all the other rivers 
on the estates of Sutherland,) thus guard, by all available means, 
this fine salmon stream from the evils of too close and exterminat- 
ing a system of fishing, so often complained of, when tenants oc- 
cupy such fishings. The fish are disposed of by contract, at a 
certain price per pound, and are sent off in a fresh state in ice to 
the London market. 

Herring-Fishery. — This very important branch of industry has 
been conducted with such spirit, and such signal and increasing 
success, since it was established and prosecuted, on a regular sys- 
tem at Helmsdale, that its history and present condition claim 
particular notice in any account of the parish of Loth. The un- 
settled state of the north of Scotland before the suppression of the 
Rebellion in 1746, may alone be adduced as a sufficient reason for 
the neglect, down to' that period, of the fisheries which now add 
so materially to the prosperity and well-being of the population of 

LOTH. 205 

our sea coasts ; but from that date to the beginning of the present 
century, there was a period of fifty-four years of uuintemipted in- 
ternal peace and public security, &vourable for the pursuit of most 
branches of industry, and which could not be materially affected 
by a distant war such as that with America, during which the 
fisheries were as completely neglected as ever ; and in this state, 
it is probable, they would have continued much longer, had not 
Government and patriotic individuals interfered. Capital is sel- 
dom embarked in hazardous and doubtful speculations, unless there 
be a chance of extraordinary profits. The ultimate success of the 
herring fishery was by no means certain ; great profits could not, 
with probability, be calculated upon ; and the Dutch, who, before 
the present century, supplied the continental markets, were, from 
their experience and perseverance, and more especially from their 
superior mode of curing, (then supposed to be known to them ex- 
clusively,) competitors of the most formidable description. The 
herring-fishery was, therefore, generally looked upon as an import- 
ant national concern, in so far as it reared a hardy class of sea- 
men, but as possessing few attractions for individual speculators. 
Hence, the first efforts of Government to advance the fisheries 
were attended with partial success only ; and such is the difficulty 
of selecting the most efficient means, at a first trial, in some legis- 
lative measures, that the principle upon which the Government 
bounties for the encouragement of the herring fishery were grant- 
ed, has been subsequently found to be an erroneous one. Busses 
of not less than sixty tons burden were the description of vessels 
encouraged ; and all such, when fitted out for sea in a particular 
manner, were entitled to a bounty of L. 3 per ton, whether fish 
were caught or not. Consequently, it often followed that busses, 
after being passed for the deep sea fishery, skulked along shore, 
or lingered in safe retired creeks, among the Orkney and other 
islands, — only going to sea when the weather was inviting. The 
crews also were exempted from impressment ; so that a number 
of lazy hands were thus obtained by the master, to man the bus- 
ses, at a trifling expense. This system was directly the reverse 
of the active and vigorous mode of fishing now prosecuted. The 
next measure, being a bounty of 4s. on the cran of fish, gutted, 
cured, and packed, in an improved manner at stations on shore, 
was, however, a most important and serviceable enactment, and may 
be considered as giving the first well-directed impulse which the pre- 
sent fishery system received. The curer, at first, when the busi- 


ness was imperfectly understood, and when he could only com- 
mand a limited number of fishermen, sufficiently skilful and ex- 
perienced, had to incur expenses and run risks, now guarded 
against ; and, at that time, the bounty often formed his only pro- 
fit, — while without it, it is probable that the business would have 
lingered or decayed. As the trade prospered under the bounty 
system, several individuals without capital appeared as curers. 
They engaged a few inefficient boats, and the premium promised 
to the crews was often made a postponed payment, consequent 
on the sale of the cured fish. If regular curing premises could 
not be procured, an open area with portable sheds was used. The 
staves, the salt, and the other curing materials were obtained up- 
on credit ; and whenever the barrels were packed, and branded by 
the fishery officer, the bounty was payable and obtained, and this 
advance paid off the pressing current expenses. Latterly, curers 
of this description increased too rapidly ; but the bounty, which 
originally worked so much good, (although as the trade increased 
and was understood, it fostered unsound speculation,) was withdrawn 
in time to place the herring-fishery on a more safe foundation ; 
because now, few persons will or can adventure in it, who are not 
possessed of some capital or credit. 

The regulations as to the size of the barrel, the curing and 
packing of the fish, and the branding of the barrels, are still at- 
tended to ; and indeed, these regulations are so well calculated to 
secure the proper curing of the fish, that self-interest alone must 
compel the respectable curer to observe them strictly. Fishery 
officers are still retained at the different stations, whose duty it is 
to brand all cured herrings submitted to them, in barrels of the 
legal size, if of good quality, and regularly cured; and their 
brand, a crown, stamps them as of prime quality ; and thus the fish 
acquire a character, without which the curer could not obtain the 
current market-price. The barrel is, in all respects, the same as 
when the bounty was granted. The breadth of the staves is ge- 
nerally about three inches and a half, and the number in a barrel 
is 18. The barrel contains 32 gallons; and the number of hoops 
varies from 16 and 17 to 18. For the West India market an iron 
hoop at each end is added. The effect of these regulations is 
equally beneficial to the public as to the curer ; for, without them, 
or similar checks, boatmen and inexperienced persons would pack 
fish, without regard to quality, mode of cure, or size and descrip- 
tion of barrel ; and a quantity of inferior and bad fish would get 



into market, which might ultimately create a prejudice against all 
British cured herrings, and lower the price of the commodity so 
far, that no profit would be obtained for those regularly cured* 

The Helmsdale cured herrings are equal in quality to any in 
Britain, and have attained a very high character in the market. 
This excellence may be attributable, in a great degree, to the very 
superior curing-yards, with which all the curers in Helmsds^e have 
supplied themselves. No fish are cured here in the open air, ds is 
frequently done, from the want of accommodation, at other sta- 
tions, greatly to the prejudice of the commodity ; because the rich 
and admired qualities of the herring are of so volatile a quality, 
that the slightest exposure of the fish to the sun, or even to the 
glare of strong daylight, before or during the process of curing, de- 
teriorates the fish. The Helmsdale curing-yards are all perfect in 
their accommodation, and are cool and ample in their construction. 
The success attending the Helmsdale fishery has been so steady 
and progressive, that, although it did not commence until so late 
as the year 1814, when the first doubtful trial was made there, 
the number of barrels cured at Helmsdale, and the creeks within 
what is called, under the Fishery Board Control, the Helmsdale 
District, have increased more than nine-fold, up to the year 1840, 
the numbers, as appears from the subjoined table, in the year 
1815, being 5318 barrels, and in the year 1839, being 46,571 
barrels; and of this last number, no less than 23,815 barrels were 
exported. This rate of increase considerably exceeds that of the 
success over the kingdom generally, the latter having only had an 
increase of six-fold since the establishment, in 1809, of the Fish- 
ery Board, which has so materially advanced the true interests of 
the trade ; the numbers at that time, throughout the whole king- 
dom, being only 90,000 barrels, or not double the number now 
cured in the Helmsdale District alone; while, last year, the whole 
quantity cured in Britain were 550,000 barrels. 

Table of the Numbers of Barrels of Herrings cured, branded, 
and exported, in the Helmsdale District, in each year, from 1815 
to 1840. 































































































































The future prosperity of this most valuable addition to the in- 
dustry of the parish may, with great confidence, be augured, from 
our knowledge of the sure and judicious foundation upon which 
it commenced, and also from the efficient means and resources 
which are now provided, on a permanent footing, for supporting 
the extension and high character of the trade at Helmsdale, in- 
cluding the settlement of native and regularly bred boat-builders 
and coopers, and the establishment also of a steam-mill for sawing 
barrel staves, in the village. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
The only villages in the parish are Helmsdale and Port Gower, 
which are both on the sea coast, and distant about two miles from 
each other. Port Gower is partly supported by some excellent 
land adjoining it, which is divided among a few of the villagers, 
and by a settlement of active fishermen. It possesses a comfort- 
able and pleasantly situated inn ; and the Parliamentary road 
along the coast, towards Caithness, runs along it Helmsdale enjoys 
ample means of communication with all parts of the kingdom, 
having the great North Parliamentary Road running through it, 
which, on one hand, leads to Wick and Thurso, and on the other, 
to all parts of the south of Scotland and England ; while a large 
steamer frequents Wick from Edinburgh, during eight months of 
the year; and the harbour of Helmsdale is often frequented by 
shipping from various ports of Britain and Ireland. The Parlia- 
mentary road through the parish, called the Dunrobin road, was 
completed, under one contract, in the year 1811, and extends 
from Golspie to the Ord, a distance of *2 1 miles and 880 yards, 
and originally cost L. 6000 ; and 13 miles of this road run 
through the parish of Loth. Another road leads from Helmsdale, 
through the Strath of Kildonan, to the North Sea at Bighouse ; 
and a branch road, leading from Lothbeg, through the Glen, 
joins the last-mentioned line of road, to the north of the church 
and manse of Kildonan. The bridge of Helmsdale is a handsome 

LOTH. 209 

Structure of two arches, and each of a span of 70 feet, and its 
erection cost L.2200. It was finished in 1811. 

The first improvement on the harbour of Helmsdale took place 
in 1818, when a pier and breastwork were erected, at an expense 
to the proprietor of L. 1600; but since then, several other sums 
have been expended in extending and enlarging the harbour ; and 
other improvements connected with it are understood to be in con- 

Helmsdale has a post-office, one principal and commodious inn, 
and several other public-houses ; and the mail-coach passes and 
repasses through the village, daily. 

A large distillery, close to the town, had been in active opera* 
tion for several years, until last summer, when the circumstances 
of the distillers caused the work to be stopped ; and since then, 
this distillery, and a beer brewery connected with it, have not been 
in operation. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The parish church is now, owing to the 
great increase of the population of late years in and around Helms- 
dale, at an inconvenient distance from the greater part of the in« 
habitants, although it is locally situated nearly in the centre of 
the parish. It is a new and very handsome church, and in a com- 
plete state of repair. In order to accommodate the inhabitants of 
Helmsdale, and the increasing population of the eastern extremity 
of the parish, the late Duchess- Countess, and the present Duke 
of Sutherland, have erected a large, convenient, and substantial 
church in Helmsdale, which is now about being finished ; and of 
late years, a clergyman of the Church of Scotland has been resi- 
dent in Helmsdale, who regularly performs divine service there, 
so that church accommodation is amply provided for in this parish. 
The present parish of Loth does not appear to have been a dis- 
tinct religious district before the Reformation, and it is not even 
named in the charter of Erection of the bishopric of Caithness. It 
possessed, however, at that period, several religious chapels, of 
which, that called St John's Chapel, at Helmsdale, was the most 
important and best endowed ; and it is probable that, with the aid 
of these minor religious houses, the present parish of Loth was, 
in Catholic times, divided, qtioad sacra^ between the jurisdictions 
of the Prebendaries of Clvne and Kildonan. A church existed, 
however, at Loth in 1627, for Sir Robert Gordon states, that, in 
that year, the church of Loth was repaired. During the period of 
Scotch Episcopacy, the conjunction of Loth and Clyne appears to 


have continued ; for some entries about the year 1618 mention, 
that " Andro Andersone, minister" of Clyne, had besides his sti- 
pend, the kirkland of Loth, and at the same time, Walter Ander- 
sone was " reidar at Clyne and Loth," and had his stipend with 
the kirkland of Clyne. In a deed granted by the Andrew Ander- 
son here referred to, he is designated " Ministro veriti Dei apud 
Loithe," and as the paper is only signed by his mark, there is ad- 
ded after it " cannot wreitt myself." Hector Pope, who died 
about the year 1719, was the last minister of Loth who retained 
the Episcopal form of appearing in the pulpit in a surplice. The 
succeeding ministers of Loth were, Robert Robertson, William 
Rose, George Macculloch, George Gordon, and the present 
minister, and Rev. Donald Ross. 

Before the year 17*26, the Presbytery of Dornoch, which in- 
cludes this parish, formed part of the synod of Ross; but on the 
15th May 1726, the General Assembly disjoined this Presbytery 
from the synod of Ross, and erected the presbyteries of Dornoch, 
Caithness, and Tongue, into one synod, as they at present stand ; 
and the meetings of the synod to be held at Dornoch and Thurso, 
per vices. 

Education.*^The parish school is at Port Gower, and is at- 
tended by all the children in the neighbourhood of that village, 
and in the western division of the parish. Another school, sup- 
ported in Helmsdale by the inhabitants, is well attended by the 
children in and around that village. There is also a female teach- 
er in Helmsdale. 

Poor, — The ordinary church collections and annual donations 
by the proprietor are the available funds for the benefit of the 
ordinary poor. In judging of the condition of, and necessary 
support by money payments to, the poor, in a country parish 
like Loth, a very misleading mistake is frequently committed, 
by assuming that their wants and destitution are the same 
as those of the poor in large towns. In such towns, owners of he- 
ritable property never permit part of their subjects to be gratui- 
tously occupied by any indigent person, and the very refuse and 
offals of all. personal effects and articles are sacred, by day and 
night, against all intrusion. On the contrary, in Loth and similar 
parishes, the actual poor have «ver the gratuitous accommodations 
from the proprietor, of dwelling-places in healthy localities, and 
small plats of ground for vegetables, and the rearing of common 
poultry, — of free access to water, open fields, peat mosses, decay- 
ed heather, furze, and brushwood, the products of the shore, and 

LOTH. 211 

the gleanings of the harvest ; from all which, shelter, constant 
fuel, and limited supplies of food are certain, — while in most dis- 
tricts, the charitable seldom fail to add considerably, and in pri- 
vate to the necessities of the deserving poor. Under such cir- 
cumstances as these, a few shillings in addition from the parish 
funds are more valuable than the same sums among the poor of 
towns. In this part of the north of Scotland, the indigent poor 
are never neglected ; but in order to continue to act towards them 
as their wants require, it is now found absolutely necessary to pro- 
tect the northern inhabitants from the hordes of vagrants who have 
been wandering, of late years, from the southern parts of the king- 
dom, over the northern counties, and carrying with them all the 
moral and physical diseases of crowded cities in their most dread* 
ed forms. 

March 1841. 



The superficial extent of the County of Sutherland is comput- 
ed to be 1865 square miles of land, and 38 square miles of water; 
or l,19d»940 acres of land, and 24,230 acres of water. The ex- 
treme length of the county, in straight lines, at three diflferent 
points, viz. from Inverkirkaig to the Ord of Caithness, is 60 miles; 
from Rhusloir in Assynt, to the Height of Knockfin, is 56 miles ; 
and from Cape Wrath to Drum-Hallasfain, is 42 miles ; while the 
breadth from Dornoch to Strathy-point is 54 miles ; and from 
Rosehall to Whitenhead is 42 miles. Sutherland is situate be- 
tween 57° 55', and 58° 37 of north latitude ; and 34° 43' and 5^ 
23' 30 " west longitude. 

Name. — The name of the county in the earliest writings extant 
is %^e\iSudrland^ — thereafter Southerland^ and now Sutherland, 
and can be traced back to the ninth and tenth centuries, and is 
probably of an older date. It evidently originated among the north- 
men, who acquired settlements about the periods referred to, in 
Caithness and Orkney, and who, from their northern position, 
distinguished the country immediately adjoining them, by a gene« 
ral name, signifying the land south from them. In like manners 
the most southern habitation or township in the county was called 
Suderha (the southern-hall,) and is still known as Sidera, in the 
parish of Dornoch. 

Boundaries. — Sutherland is bounded on the south from the Ord, 
in a south-west direction to the Point of Dornoch, by the Ger- 
man Ocean or Moray Frith ; and thence to the west sea, by the 
county of Ross. The Dornoch Frith, formerly known as the 
River of Portnaculter, and its leading stream the Oykill, separate 
the two counties, in a straight line of about 35 miles. Thence, 
the march wanders among the high grounds, between the two 
seas ; whence the waters shed in opposite directions to the east and 
west, and where the ancient and natural march was departed from 
in favour of Ross-shire, in consequence of an award upon evidence 

• Drawn up by Goorgc Sutherland Taylor, Esq. GoUpie. 


subsequently found to have been false. The windings of the pre^ 
sent march at this part of the interior, are of considerable length; 
but the distance in a straight line from the source of the Oykill, 
to the east end of Loch Veyatie, where water again separates the 
counties, is only about 8 or 9 miles. Loch Veyatie, Fewn Loch, 
and the river and bay of Kirkaig, all within Sutherland, complete 
the boundary to the West Sea. The western boundary of Su- 
therland is the West Sea or Atlantic Ocean ; and its northern 
boundary, from Cape Wrath to the confines of Caithness, is the 
North Sea. There are several islands along both these coasts, 
which form parts of the county. The county of Caithness forms 
the eastern boundary of Sutherland ; the two counttes being se- 
parated by the summit of a high range of hills, — well defined, — 
from Fea-Drum-Hallastain at the North Sea, to the Ord of 
Caithness at the southern extremity.* 

Physical Appearances. — The interior of the county is mark- 
ed by a lofty range of mountains, which separate the west and 
north coasts of the county from its southern districts. This range 
commencing with Suilven in Assynt, and ending with the two 
fien-Griams, near Caithness, contains the highest mountains in the 
county, many of them rising to heights of from 2500 feet to 3230 
feet, and presenting varied and very remarkable outlines. The 
alpine character of this extended range is also preserved in the 
magnitude of many lakes at the base of the mountains, in the 
depth of the openings and passes, in the expansion of widely spread 
mountain sides, and in a variety of romantic valleys, and rugged 
glens and hollows. Many parts of the interior also form exten- 
sive table-lands, chiefly of moss, and unbroken by any marked fea- 
tures. The western and northern districts of the county, sepa- 
rated by the interior mountains from the southern parts, are quite 
dissimilar to them in appearance and character. Thus, the 
district of Assynt and Edderachillis, along the west coast, is one 
of the most remarkable in Scotland, for the general ruggedness 

* In a royal charter defining the bounds of the county of Sutherland, in the year 
1631, the following is the description giren : <* Beginning upon the north at the 
Btrypc called Faehallodaill, which divides Strathnaver from Caithness, and fra that 
south-east by the top of the hills to the Ord upon the sea coste, including the haill 
bounds of the Ord, and thair fra soutb-wcst'till the mouth of the water of Tayne, alias 
Purtnacutar ; and fra that west to the water of Oikill, comprehending therein the 
haill lands and country of Fairincostar, alias Sleischeillis ; and fra that west till Loch- 
bronie and Coygatlie, so far as the diocese of Caithness extends, comprehending thairin 
the said lands and country of Assynt into the west sea, and fra thence north up the 
sea coste till the northmost point of the land called Ardurines ; and fra thence east to 
the river and water of UaUodaill ; and fra that east to the said strype called Facballo- 


and inequalities of its surface, and for a great number of rocky 
eminences, and of second-rate lakes, which characterize its 
scenery. Along the north coast, the same description of sce- 
nery continues, but in a more modi6ed form, and softened by an 
open track of arable land at Durness ; by the picturesque beauty 
of Tongue, and its improved policies; by the extensive and beau- 
tiful valley of Strathnaver; and the more tame but rather fertile 
strath of Hallodale. The sea coast of these two districts, also, 
presents headlands, and numerous cliffs of the boldest description. 
The eastern and southern parts of the county, again, are mark- 
ed by several extensive and pleasant valleys, surrounded by high 
hills, by rich pasture grounds, and by extensive tracks of well-cul- 
tivated arable land, in the parishes of Criech, Dornoch, Golspie, 
Clyne, and Loth. The sea coast in this direction is flat, with 
sandy shores, except at the eastern extremity of the county, where 
the majestic headland of the Ord .stands erect out of the German 

Mountains. — The mountains of Sutherland are very remarkable 
features of the county, — in their number, — their height, — their sin- 
gular and varied outlines, — and the detached position of a few of 
them. The altitude of the highest of these mountains has b^n 
ascertained to be as follows : — 

Ben More of Assynt, 3431 feet high. Ben Uarie« 

Ben Klibreck, 


Ben Hope, 




Ben Ilee, 


Ben Spionnue, 


Ben Armin, 


Ben Griam-more, • 


Ben Uarie« 

. 1923 feet high. 

Ben Vealicli, 


Ben Horn/ 

. 1712 

Ben Sraorale, 


Ben Lundie^ 

. 1467 

Ben Hutic. . 


Ben Bhraggie, . 

. 1282 

Rivers, — The Sutherland rivers are very numerous; but as all 
of them have their source in^the interior parts of this county, and 
do not receive any tributary streams or supplies from other coun- 
ties, except two rivers that join the Oykill from Ross-shire, they 
are not remarkable for size, or the volume of their waters. The 
larger rivers are all valuable for their salmon-fishings ; but none 
of them are navigable, except the estuaries of the Oykill and of 
the Fleet, for short distances. The largest of these rivers is the 
Oykill, which has its rise in Loch-Aish, — a wild mountain«lake 
near the eastern limb of Ben -More of Assynt This stream forms 
the boundary between the counties of Ross and Sutherland, and 
is augmented in its course by a number of burns, by the rivers of 


Eanaig, from the Koss hills, and Cassley, and Shin, two large 
Sutherland rivers. After the junction of these streams, their 
united waters are generally called the Kyle of Sutherland ; and 
immediately above Bonar, where the Kyle is crossed by an elegant 
iron bridge, having one arch of 150 feet span, the River Carron 
from Ross-shire flows into it. The river thus augmented widens 
considerably ; and downwards, to Tarbetness, it is now generally 
named the Dornoch Frith, although, for several centuries, it was 
known as the River of Portnaculter. The tide flows up to a point 
at a short distance above the junction of t(ie Cassley and Oykill, 
and vessels of small burden navigate the frith up to Bonar Bridge^ 
although the formidable sand-banks, known as the Gizzen Briggs, 
at the entrance of the frith, formed by the descending stream being 
here first resisted by the flowing tides from the Moray Frith, ren- 
ders the entrance into the frith intricate at all times, and often 
very dangerous. The Cassley and the Shin are both large and 
handsome rivers, the former flowing along a lengthened valley of 
the same name, and the latter issuing out of Loch Shin, and hav- 
ing a course of six miles. There are other three rivers along the 
east and south coast of the county. The River Fleet forms an 
estuary, now known as the Little Ferry, but formerly called the 
River Unes. The upper part of the Fleet, which juns through 
Strathfleet, is an active rivulet, which, as it increases in size, flows 
with sluggish stream for several miles before it reaches the opening 
of the estuary. The next river is the Brora, having a course of 
about five miles from Loch Brora, before it enters the sea at the 
village of the same name ; and the only other river in this quarter 
is the handsome stream of the Helmsdale, which, after a course 
of upwards of twenty miles through the Strath of Kildonan, falls 
into the sea at Helmsdale. 

On the north coast of the county, the river of Hallodale, having 
a course of about twenty miles through the strath of the same 
name, joins the North Sea at the bay of the Tor of Bighoiise, 
near the boundary with Caithness. The next river westward is 
rather a small one, the Strathy, flowing from a lake of the same 
name. Further on, the Naver enters the sea at a sandy bay of 
the coast. This river has a course of about thirty miles, from 
Loch Naver, through the strath of that name, and is about the 
same size as the Helmsdale. The Borgie or Torrisdale river, 
a much smaller stream, flows into the sea, within one mile's dis- 
tance from the mouth of the Naver ; but farther westward, as far as 


Cape Wrath, there is no other stream deserving the name of river, 
except the rather unimportant rivers of Hope and Dionard. The 
former has a very short course of about two miles from Loch Hope 
to the sea, but carries along with it a considerable body of water ; 
and the Dionard, after forcing its way through all the obstructions 
of a particularly rugged mountain strath, silently enters the head 
of the Bay of Durness. 

The rivers of the west coast having short courses through 
wild districts, are more remarkable for the turbulence of their 
streams, than for their size. The Inchard is rather a small stream, 
but has sufficient water to afford a salmon-fishing. The Laxford, 
after a short course from Loch Stack, falls into Loch Laxford, a salt 
water loch. This stream is proverbially an excellent salmon river, 
and affords the best angling of any river in Britain, of its size. The 
Inver is a very rapid and headlong river, issuing from Loch As-, 
synt, and falling into Loch Inver, a deep sea-bay ; and the Kir- 
kaig, which divides Ross from Sutherland, is a tolerably large sized 
stream, having its source and its whole supply of water from Su- 
therland, it being wholly a river of this county. 

Lakes. — The fresh-water lakes of Sutherland are very nume- 
rous, and many of them are of large size. The largest are con- 
nected with, or amidst, the interior range of lofty mountains. The 
first, as to size, is Loch Shin, the deep reservoir of an immense 
body of water that reposes on the heights of the parish of Lairg, 
and stretches towards Assynt. This lake, including the small 
Loch Griam, at its west end, and which is almost connected with 
it, is in a straight line, eighteen miles long. It is one of a remark- 
able chain of lakes, which, with short intervening spaces, extends 
from within ten miles of Bonar Bridge, the highest navigable 
point of the Dornoch Frilh, on the east coast, to Loch Laxford, 
an arm of the Atlantic. The other lakes of this chain are Loch 
Merkland,* three miles in length, and only distant from Loch 
Griam about one mile and a-half. The next in succession is Loch 
More, or, more properly, Loch Rynie, which is only at a distance 
of two miles from the west end of Loch Merkland. Loch More 
is about four miles and a half in length ; and at a distance of one 

* The name of this lake, as also Stack and Laxford^ are plainly Scandinavian 
names. Mark^ signifying a forest, as well as the march of a territory, orjiiiet terrec, 
would, in either sense, be very applicable here ; I^och Merkland being within the 
Dirie-more Forest, and the chain of lakes, (tf which it is the centre, having been an- 
ciently the boundary between Ardurness and the old estate of ^kelbo. Stack is the 
descriptive name of the conical mountain that rises from Loch Stack; and Laxford 
(or LaZ'tiord) is palpably the Salmon Frith. 


mile from its western extremity is Loch Stack, a large and nearly 
circular lake of about one mile in diameter, with a contracted limb 
towards the west, which brings the deep water of the lake to with- 
in three miles of the head of the sea water of Loch Laxford. 

In Edderachillis and Durness, many other lakes of considerable 
size, add to the beauty of the scenery, or agreeably break the uni- 
form bleakness and sterile appearance of parts of the country ; but 
Loch Hope, which is in this district, requires to be separately no- 
ticed, as being a singularly romantic and placid lake of six miles 
in length, situate at the foot of the majestic Ben Hope. The dis- 
trict of Assynt lies to the south of the chain of lakes already no- 
ticed, and may be said to be studded with lakes, having upwards 
of 200 moderately sized lakes, besides smaller tarns. Loch As- 
synt, about six miles and a half in length, is one of the most pic- 
turesque of all the Sutherland lakes, and presents many splendid 
views. Lochs Urigill, Cama, Veyatie, Na-gana, Beanoch, Gorm- 
loch, and Culfreich, in the same parish, are also large, and some 
of them romantic sheets of water. 

On the other hand. Loch Loyal, which reposes along the east 
side of the splendid mountain of the same name, is, with its con- 
tinuation, Loch Craigie, seven miles in lengtti. To the south- 
west, Loch Maedie, having some small wooded islands, is three 
miles long; and about five miles to the eastward. Loch Naver 
extends six miles along the foot of Ben Klibreck. On the east 
side of this mountain, are the secluded but very picturesque Lochs 
Corr and Vealloch, — the former three, and the latter two miles in 
length, and both almost unknown to the public. Still farther to 
the eastward are Loch Strathy, about a mile and-a-half long, and 
the lakes which distinguish the upper parts of the parish of Kil- 
donan ; but of these we will only enumerate Loch Badanloch, 
Loch-na-Clar, Loch-na-kuen, Loch Truderscaig, Loch-ari-cliny, 
and Loch-in-ruar. 

In the east district of Sutherland, several small lakes occur ; 
but Loch Brora is the only one of any note. It is greatly admir- 
ed, and its banks exhibit many of the bold and wild features of 
the Highlands, combined with verdant meadows, fertile fields, 
and vigorous plantations, amidst which the waters of the lake con- 
tract and expand at three diflFerent points, in its length of three 
miles and a-half. There are some other smaller lakes in the pa- 
rishes of Clyne, Golspie, Rogart, Lairg, Criech, and Dornoch ; 



but none of them require to be individually noticed in this general 

Islands, — The i$lands belonging to Sutherland are all situate 
along the west and northern coasts. They are very numerous, 
and some of them are inhabited. Handa, on the Edderachillis 
coast, is the most remarkable of these islands, from the altitude of 
its cliffs at one side, and as being the resort of innumerable sea« 
fowl during the hatching season. The Stack and Skerries, two 
remarkable islands, or rather lofty and narrow rocks, are the most 
distant from shore, of the Sutherland islands, and are resorted to 
in the summer months, by some of the Sutherland tenants, in quest 
of seals, which are found there in great numbers. 

Rural Affairs, — The proportion of arable land is very small, 
compared with the extent of pasture ranges in the county; but 
the system of agriculture pursued by the tenants of arable farms 
is not excelled in any part of the more favoured districts in Scot* 
land. The small tenants rear black-cattle, which are generally 
sold when young, and, being sound and improving animals, are 
eagerly purchased for the south country feeders. Cheviot sheep 
are the staple produce of the county ; and it is computed, that the 
permanent stock maintained in Sutherland is not under 170,000. 

Roads. — Before the' year 1811 there were no formed roads 
within the county ; but in that year, the first Parliamentary roads 
were completed, and since then the rapidity with which the whole 
county has been opened up, and intersected by leading lines and 
cross-branches of excellent roads, and all necessary bridges, is one 
of the most remarkable events in the annals of northern improve* 
ments. The Parliamentary Commissioners effected a great deal 
by the erection of Bonar Bridge, which opens the communication 
into the county, and across the Dornoch Frith, without being 
compelled to encounter the always disagreeable, and often preca- 
rious passage of a ferry ; and by the completion of a road from 
Bonar Bridge to the Ord, as the great and leading road from the 
south into Caithness; and also by the completion of another road 
from Bonar Bridge to Tongue on the north coast. Still, with 
the exception of these two roads, the county was as completely 
shut out from the rest of the empire as formerly ; but at this junc- 
ture, a new era for the completion and maintenance of all neces- 
sary lines of road, commenced to the county ; and the untired 
exertions, the liberality and patriotism of the late Duke of Suther- 
land, effected this mighty and lasting advantage for the county of 


Sutherland, which has not only opened up its resources, and pav- 
ed the way for its further and future advancement in prosperity, 
but has alto been of incalculable importance in a national point of 
new, as consolidating remote and hitherto secluded districts with 
the rest of the empire, and securing all the other collateral bene- 
fits of well directed labour, and the increase of local wealth and 
public revenue. 

Eedesiastieal State. — There are thirteen parishes in the coun- 
ty of Sutherland, besides part of the parish of Reay in Caithness. 
Of these the parishes of Assynt, Clyne, Criech, Dornoch, Gol- 
spie, Kildonan,. Lairg, Loth, and Rogart, nine in number, consti- 
tute^ the Presbytery of Dornoch; and the minister of the Go- 
▼emment church of Stoer, in the parish of Assynt, is now an ad- 
ditional member of this Presbytery. The remaining four parishes 
of Durness^ Edderachillis, Parr, and Tongue, constitute the Pres- 
bytery of Tongue, which has two additional members in the mi- 
nisters of the Government churches of Kinlochbervie, in the pa- 
rish of Edderachillis, and of Strathy, in the parish of Farr. 

CMl History. — The early history of this county has not been so 
satisfutorily traced as to authorize an epitome of it in a concise report 
like the present Suffice it to say, that its early annals are only to be 
traced in the history of the ancient Earls of Sutherland, who ap- 
pear, at the very first dawn of our authentic history, as the power- 
ful and apparently long-settled rulers and proprietors of the terri- 
tories still enjoyed by their lineal descendant, the present Duke of 
Sutherland. Sir Robert Gordon's History of the Earldom of Su- 
therland, which was written in 1630, commences its narrative 
about the beginning of the thirteenth century, and is continued 
till the time when it was written. It affords ample details, expressed 
in quaint language, of the affairs of Sutherland, and has been sub- 
jected to several tests, by the examination of other writings and 
contemporary authorities, which prove the correctness of his lead- 
ing facts. 

There has been no history of the county written since 1630 ; but 
materials exist for such a work, including'public events in the north 
of Scotland, in the stirring thnes of the Revolution of 1 688, and 
of the Rebellions of 1715, 1719, and 1746 ; which are, at present, 
either unknown, or ill understood by the public. 

The Sutherland Family. — The foregoing brief observations on the 
county of Sutherland, may, with great propriety, be concluded })y 


a short notice of the antiquity of this illustrious house, whose head 
has been Scotland's Premier Earl, for some generations. There is 
ample written evidence of Lords and Earls of Sutherland, in the early 
part of the thirteenth century ; and there is every probability in 
the supposition that they were of a far more ancient standing, when 
we find the first written notices of them in deeds, by which 
they conveyed large tracks of country from their patrimonial estates^ 
as gifts for behoof of the church. From this early period, the li- 
neal descent of the succeeding Earls rests on the most undoubted 
evidence that can be afibrded by crown charters, marriage-contracts, 
and the services of heirs. 

There is written evidence that Hugo Freskyn was proprietor of 
Sutherland between the year 1186 and 1214. Without arguing 
here the probability that this person held the title of Comes or 
Early there is undeniable proof that his son, ^^ Willielmus Dominus 
de Sutherlandia, filius et haeres quondam Hugonis Freskyn," died 
Earl of Sutherland about the year 1248. He was succeeded by 
his son, William the second Earl, who held the title forseventy-seven 
years, and died in 1325. He signed the letter from the nobility 
of Scotland to the Pope in 1320, and was with the Scottish army 
at Bannockburn, and at Brigland, in Yorkshire, in 1322. The 
third Earl was Kenneth, son of the last Earl, and he fell at the 
battle of Hallidon Hill, 22d July 1333. He was succeeded by 
his eldest son, William, the fourth Earl, who married the Lady 
Margaret Bruce, second daughter of King Robert the Bruce, by 
whom he had two sons, John, who died in England while detained 
a hostage for the ransom of his uncle, David II., and William, 
who succeeded his father; and as all the subsequent Earls of Su- 
therland are directly descended from him, they are also lineally 
descended maternally from the royal family of Scotland, before 
the accession of the Stuarls to the Throne. This Earl was a 
very powerful Noble, and held lands in the shires of Aberdeen 
and Inverness, which he gifted, before the death of his son, ihe 
hostage, to several potent persons, (viri potentes^ as they are called), 
in order to secure their support to his son's title to the Crown, 
who had been selected by King David to succeed him. Thus he 
conveyed the lands of Bonne, Enzie, Kincardine, Tomortine, Kin- 
tore, Kilcairne, Fetternairn, Dunnotter Ca.«*tle, Enzie, Boyne, 
Cluny, Dunbeath, Downy, Aboyne, and the Barony of Urquhart, to 
the Hays, Sinclairs, Erasers, Ogilvies, and Gordons. William, the 
fifth Earl, the son of Earl William and Lady Margaret Bruce, was at 


the battle of Otterburn, 5tb August 1388, and died in 1389. He was 
succeeded by his son, Robert, the sixth Earl, who died in 1442; and 
Earl Robert was succeeded by his son, John, the seventh Earl, who 
dying in 1460, was succeeded by his son, John, the eighth Earl, 
who died in 1508, leaving one son and one daughter* The son, 
John, the ninth Earl, died without issue in 1514, and was succeed- 
ed by his sister-german Elizabeth, who thus, in her own right, was 
Countess of Sutherland, and, consequently, was the tenth person 
who held the title. She married Lord Aboyne, and, dying in 
1535, was succeeded by her son, John, the eleventh Earl, who was 
poisoned at Helmsdale in 1567, and was succeeded by his son 
Alexander, the twelfth Earl, who died in 1 594. He was succeed- 
ed by his son, John, the thirteenth Earl, who died in 1615* John 
was succeeded by his son, also named John, the fourteenth Earl, 
who died in 1679, and was succeeded by his son, George, the fif- 
teenth Earl, who died in 1703. Earl George was succeeded by 
his son, John, the sixteenth Earl He, Earl John, rendered emi- 
nent services to his country, — in the senate as a Peer, and in the 
field as a General in the Army, and obtained the Royal authority 
for adding to his paternal coat of arms, the double Tressure cir'- 
confeurdelire^ to denote his descent from the Royal family of Scot- 
land. He died in 1733, and was succeeded by his grandson, 
William, the seventeenth Earl, who died in 1750, and was suc- 
ceeded by his son, William, the eighteenth Earl. This last Earl 
died in 1766, leaving only one infant daughter, the late Duchess- 
Countess of Sutherland. Her right of succession to the long-de- 
scended honours and earldom of her direct ancestors, was disput- 
ed, on the ground that the title did not descend to heirs-female ; 
but after a long, full, and arduous contest, during the young 
Countess's minority, the House of Lords, on the 21st day of March 
1771, solemnly ^^ Resolved and adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual 
and Temporal in Parliament assembled. That the claimant, Eliza- 
beth Sutherland, has a right to the title, honour, and dignity of 
the Earldom of Sutherland, as heir of the body of William, who 
was Earl of Sutherland in 1275." The Countess of Sutherland 
married in 1785, George Granville, Viscount Trentham, eldest 
son of Granville, first Marquis of Stafibrd, by his second wife. 
Lady Louisa Egerton, daughter of Scroop, first Duke of Bridge- 
water. His Lordship was successively, Earl Gower, and Marquis 
of Stafford, and was created Duke of Sutherland in 1833. The 
Duchess of Sutherland being also Countess of Sutherland in her 


own right, was the nioeteenth representative of the family who held 
the title, and which remained with Her Ladyship for the long 
period of 72 years, 7 months, and 13 days ; she having died in 
London on 29th January J 839. Her Ladyship was succeeded in 
the Earldom of Sutherland, by her eldest son, the present George 
Granville, Duke of Sutherland, K.G., who, thus, is the twentieth 
Earl of Sutherland, in direct lineal descent, from the first Earl of 
this long ennobled family. 

The Duke and Earl of Sutherland is descended, in the pater- 
nal line, from several ancient and noble families of England : Isty 
From Sir Allan Gower of Stittenham, — an estate still held by his 
Grace, — who was Sheriff of York at the period of the Conquest, 
(1066); and, according to others, from William Fitz-Guhyer of 
Stittenham, temp. H. H. a. d. 1 167. 2dj From Richard Leve- 
son of Willenhall, in the county of Stafford, who was grandfather 
to Richard Leveson, temp. Ed. I., a. d. 1289. 3^ His Grace is 
also, through his paternal descent, the representative of the Gran- 
villes. Earls of Bath, and, as such, is descended from Robert, the 
youngest son of Rollo, first Duke of Normandy. This descent is 
stated in the first patent of peerage granted to the family by 
Charles H., which bears, " Whereby he justly claims his descent 
from the youngest son of the Duke of Normandy, as we ourselves 
do from the eldest.'^ This descent makes his Grace Count of 
Corbeil, Baron Torigny, and De Granville. 

In his father's maternal line, his Grace is descended from the 
Princess Mary, second daughter of Henry VII. and, as such, 
would have been a claimant to the throne, had the will of Henry 
VIII. been carried into effect, (Hallam's Constitutional History of 
England, Vol. i. p. 316.) In the same line of descent, his Grace 
is one of the claimants to the ancient barony (in fee) of Lord 
Strange of Knockyn, now in abeyance among the representatives 
of Ferdinando, fifth Eari of Derby. 

His Grace^s father and mother had two descents in common ; 
the one through two females, descendants of Richard de Abriucis, 
Earl of Chester, who married respectively into the Derby and 
Bruce fiimilies ; and through the Scotch line, the late Duke of 
Sutherland was descended from a daughter of William the Lion 
of Scotland, through the De Ross of Hamlake. 

March 1841. 





































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Achumore, spring at, 107 

Agriculture and rural economy, 8| 19, 
36, 52. 63, 74, 97, 113, 129, 158, 

Agriculture of the county, general re- 
marks on, 218 

Antiquities, 33, 50, 71, 93, 1 1 1 

Arch, natural, on Seal Isluid, 167 

Ardvrack castle, ruins of, 111 

Arkle mountain, 119 

Assynt, parish of, 105 — loch, 107 

Ayalanche in Edderachillis during 1838, 

Aurora borealis, appearance of, during 
the day, 86 

Badan loch, 137 

Balnakiel house, 94 

Balvraid loch, drainage of, 8 

Ben-a-Bragidh, 24 

Ben Clyhric, 58, 66 

Ben Hope, 83 

Ben Horn, 150 

Ben Hutig, 165 

Ben Laoghal, 165 

Benmore, 105 

Ben Stac, 119 

Ben Ormin, 150 

Black water, the, 151 

Bonar bridge, 20-— village of, 20 

Borgie water, the, 69, 170 

Borley loch, 87 

Botany, 49, 70, 90, 108, 125, 138, 172, 

Brora loch, 150 — river, 48, 151 — vil- 
lage, 161 

Calda house, ruins of, 111 

Cam loch, the, 107 

Camisendiknbay, anchorage of, 87 

Cape Wrath, lighthouse on, 94 

Capley water, the, 17 

Camaig water, the, 3 

Carrol rock, the, 149 

Castle Cole, remains of, 154 

Castle Varrich, promontory of, 166 

Cave, artificial, at Kintradwell, 201 

Caves in Assynt, 106— in Farr, 67— at 
Smo and Tresgill, 85 

Chapels, ancient, in Loth, 201 

Choaric island, 86 

Cholera, appearance of, at Golspie, 45 — 
in Helmsidale, 192 


Churches, see Ecclesiastical Statistics 

Climate, see Meteorology 

Clyne, parish of, 149 — improvements in, 

Coal, discovery of, at Clashmore, 3 — 
workings at Brora. 152 

Corrie, Druidical remains at, 50 

Craggie loch, 48 

Craig bar, remains at, 154 

Craig-Bhokie and Craig-Boddich, re- 
markable cliffs of, 191 

Craspul loch, 87 

Criech, parish of, 17 — lochs in, 17 

Crona, island of, 106 

Cuniack mountain, 105 

Danes, invasion and defeat of the, in 
1259, 1— defeat of, at Drinleah, 18 

Danish remains in parish of Farr, 71 

Davy, Sir Humphry, sketch of the geo- 
logy of Clyne by, 151 — and Golspie, 

Decrease of population, causes of the, 

Defeat of the Earl of Cromarty in 1745, 

Dempster of Skibo, family of, 4 

Dinard loch, 87 — water, 88 

Dim loch, 169 

Dornoch, tradition regarding the origin 
of the name, 1 — parish of, 1 — frith, 
3— town, 6, 1 1 — cathedral, 12 

Doune hill, vitrified^fort on, 18 

Drinleah, defeat of the Danes at, 18 

Dniidical circle near Morvich, 34 — re- 
mains at Corrie, 50 — at Clachtoll, 1 1 1 

Druim-na-Coup, battle of, 176 

Drumderg, battle of, 191 

Duffus, Lord, 4 

Dun Domigill, ruins of, 93 

Dunrobin castle, with view, 34 — glen, 

Durness, parish of, 82 — immense for- 
mer extent of, 82 — subdivisions of, 

Ecclesiastical statistics, 12,21, 41, 54, 
64,76, 102, 115,132, 148, 160, 181, 
209 — general view of, 223 

Edderachillis, parish of, 118— subdivi- 
sions of, 119 

Education, 14, 22, 42, 55, 64, 77, 102, 
116, 132, 148,161,182,210 





EriboU loch, 87 

Evlix river, 3 

Farr, parish of, 66 — changes in, 79 

Farralarie loch, 25 

Fisheries, herring and sea, 11, 39, 75, 

99, 129, 195, 204 
Fisheries, salmon, 20, 39, 49, 75, 99, 

139, 159, 179, 195. 204 
Fleet water, the, 25, 47, 48— mound of, 

Flodden, march of the Caithness men 

to, and superstition derived therefrom, 

Freasgail, caves of, 167 
Freestone, see Quarries 
Friendly society, 15 
Fuel, 16, 43, 56, 133, 184 
Garvellan Island, 85 
General observations on the county, 212 
Geology and mineralogy, 3, 17, 25, 48, 

58, 69, 88, 108, 122, 138, 151, 170, 

Gillander*s cave, 25 
Gizzing Briggs, the, 2 
Glencul loch, 121 
Glendhu loch, 121 
Golspie, parish of, 24 — bum, 24 — ruins 

of old church, 33— viUage, 39 
Gordon of Embo, family of, 4 
Gordon, Sir Robert, his history of the 

Sutherlands, 4 
Griam-more mountain, 136 
Gun, history of the clan of, 140 
Hallodale river, 214 
Handa isle, with geological sections, 120 
Helmsdale, strath of, 134 — river, 135, 

137 — ^village, 208— -herring fishery, 

history of, 204 
Herring, see Fisheries 
Hoan island, 86 
Hope loch, 87 — ^water, 87 
Horn loch, 25 
House of Tongue, the, 176 
Houses of SuUierland, old and new con- 
trasted, 123 
Husbandry, systems of, 10, 19, 38, 75, 

Die river, 137 
Inchard water, 120 
Inns, 16, 23, 43, 56, 79, 117, 184 
Inver loch, 108 
Inverkiikaig, waterfidl of, 108 
Ishour loch, 87 

Islandt artificial, in loch Brora, 155 
Juno, wreck of the, 60 
KeanloGhbervie, quoad sacra parish of, 

Kei^ feud between the, and the Guns, 

KjHft MMiufiMtory, 100— decrease of, 

MkOly CMctde of, 151 

Kilkalmkill or Carrol, family of, 31 

Kildonan, parish of, 133 

Kinloch water, 170 

Klett island, 106 

Kyle of Durness, the, 86 

Kyle of Scow, the, 108 

Lairg, parish of, 58 

Language, character, &c. of the popula- 
tion, 7, 35, 51, 63, 74, 95, 112, 128, 
156, 177, 202 

Laoghal loch, 169 

Laxford water, 120 

Libraries, 61, 182 

Lighthouse at Cape Wrath, 94 

Little Ferry estuary and harbour, 2, 41 

Live-stock, breeds of, 10, 28, 37, 53, 
98, 130 

Lochinver, viUage of, 114 

Lochs— Badan, 137— Boriey, 37— Bro- 
ra, 150— Cam, 107— Craggie, 48— 
Craspul,87— Dinard,87— Dini, 169— 
EriboU, 87— Farralarie, 25— Glencul, 
121— Glendhu, 121— Hope, 87— 
Horn, 25 — Inver, 108 — Ishour, 87 — 
Laoghal, 169 — Lundie, 25 — Maedie, 
169— Moir, 120, 122— Monar, 72— 
Na-cuen, 137 — Naver, 68— Sabichie, 
25— Shin,58— Stac 120, 122— Stra- 
thy, 68 — various, in Kildonan, 137 

Loth, parish of, 18&--gleD of, 191— Te- 
mains in, 191 

Lundie loch, 25 

Mackay, notices of the dan of, 72 — Ge- 
neral, 93— Hugh, 60— Rev. John, 59 

Mackenzie, Rev. William, 174 

Macleod, Angus, tradition regarding. 111 

Madeod of Assynt, fiunily of, 110 

Macleod, the betrayer of Montrose, 109 

Macpherson, Professor, birth-place of, 32 

Maedie loch, 169 

Manganese ore, found at Rosehall, 17 

Marble quarries at Ledbeg, 114 

Meteorology and climate, 2, 25, 47, 68, 
86, 106, 120, 136, 168, 192 

Mineralogy, see Geology 

Moir loch, 120, 122 

Monar loch, 72 

Montrose, betrayal of, 109 — confine- 
ment of, in Skibo castle, 6 

Moray Frith, 193 

Mound of Fleet, the, 40 

Mountains — Arkle, 119 — Ben ^Bra- 
gidh, 24— Ben Qybric, 58, 66— Ben 
Hope, 83— Ben Horn, 150 — Ben 
Hutig, 165— Ben More, 105— Ben 
Ormin, 150— Ben Stac, 119— Cu- 
itiack,105— Griam>more, 136 — Laog- 
hal, 165 — Morvich, 24 — Sugarloaf, 

Muuro, Sir Hector, 31 

Murray, Bishop Gilbert, 12 

Naver loch 68 — water, 69 



Novar, family of, 31 
Oldney island, 106 
Ofd head, the, 190 
Oykill river, 17, 214 
Pauperifon, see Poor 
Picdsh forts at Dunrobin, 34— in Helms- 
dale, 146 
Plantations and planting, 9, 19, 53, 74 
Poor, management of the, 15, 23, 43, 
56, 65, 79, 103, 117, 133^ 148, 183, 
Population returns, 6, 18, 35, 51, 62, 
72, 95, 112, 128, 147, 155, 176, 201 
Population, language, &c. of, see Lan- 
guage — causes of decrease in» 73 
Port Gower, village of, 208 
Prison of Dornoch, 15 
Quarries, freestone, 3, 11, 38, 159 
Rabbit islands, the, 167 
Reay, family of, 173 
Rent, rates of, 36, 98, 130, 179 
Rheumatism, prevalence of, in Golspie, 

Rbiaos water, 170 
Rispond harbour, 100 
Rivers and bums — Blackwater, 151 — 
Borgie, 69, 170— Brora, 48, 151— 
Capley, 17 — Camaig, 3--Dinard, 88 
— EvIjx, 3— Fleet, 25, 47— Gol^ie, 
24— Hallodale,214— Helmsdale, 135, 
137— Hope, 87— lUe, 137— Inchard, 
120 — Laxford, 120— -Naver, 69— 
Oykill, 17, 214— Rhians, 170— Shin, 
17— Strathey, 69 
Roads and bridges, 21, 39, 53, 180 
Rob Donn, the Gaelic bard, 93 
Rogart, parish of, 46 
Saint's island, the, 167 
Salachie loch, 25 
Salmon, see Fisheries 
Salt pans at Brora, 152 
Savings banks, 15,78, 115, 132, 162, 

Schools, see Education 

Sculomy, creek of, 168 

Seal ishind, the, 167 

Shin water, 17 — ^loch, 58 

Silver rock, the, 24 

Skelbo casUe, ruins of, 6 

Skibo castle, confinement of Montrose 
in, 6 

Sku, Kyle of, 108 

Smo cave, 84 

Sova, island of, 106 

Spinningdale, village of, 20 

Springs, chalybeate, at Achnaraoin, 138 

Stac loch, 120, 122 

Strathachvaich, 2 

Strathbrora, 47, 149 

Strathcaimaig, 2 

Strathfleet, 46 

Strathnaver, 67 

Strathy, church at, 76 — ^loch, 68— water, 

Stronchrubie, remains at, 112 

Sugarloaf mountain, the, 106 

Sutherland, notices of the family of, 5, 

Sutherlandshire,general observations on, 
212 — mountains of, 214 — drivers, 214 
lakes, 216 

Talmuie bay, 168 

Tides at Cape Wrath, 87 

Tober Massan, well of, 91 

Tongue, parish of, 164 — bay, 168 

TorquiPs cave, 25 

Torrisdale bay, 168 

Tradition regarding Earl of Suther-^ 
land, 1 

Tresgiil, caves at, 85 
Tubemach loch, 150 
Tumuli in parish of Lairg, 62 
Varrich castle, ruins of, 175 
Vitrified fort on hUl of Criech, 18 
Wages, rates of, 10, 36, 75, 98, 130, 

Zoology, 3, 25, 49, 70, 89, 123, 138, 
152, 171, 195 







PAGE 114 
































f ! 






I. — Topography and Natural History. 

^am^.— The name of this parish is taken from that of the river 
which runs through it. It is made up of the words Thor^ the 
name of one of the great northern deities, and aa^ which, in the 
Icelandic dialect, signifies a river ; and so means Thorns river. 

Extent and Boundaries. — The mean length of the parish is 
about 7 miles, and the breadth about 4f , and the area about 34 
square miles. It is bounded on the north, by the sea ; on the 
west, south, and east, by the parishes of Reay, Halkirk, and 01« 
rig respectively. Its form is that of an irregular quadrilateral 

Topographical Appearances, — It rises by a gentle acclivity from 
the sea shore, and in no part attains to any very great elevation. 
It presents various irregularities and undulations on its surface ; 
but, speaking generally, the land is flat The coast, which ex- 
tends about eight miles, is in general rocky, though, in some parts, 
especially near the town of Thurso, it is flat and sandy. The bay 
of Thurso, which forms the coast of the parish of Olrig and part 
of that of Dunnet, forms about five miles of the coast of this pa- 
rish ; and, as seen from the town and neighbourhood, presents a 
very beautiful and striking appearance. It is included within the 
promontories of Dunnet-head, (the most northerly land in Scot- 
land), situated in the parish of Dunnet on the east, and of Hoi- 
burn-head, situated in this parish, on the west Holburn-head, the 
only head-land in this parish, is about two miles to the north-west 
of the town of Thurso. At the extremity of this headland, there 

* Compiled by the Rev. W. R. Taylor, Minister, assisted by Hugh Davidson, 
Esq. Chief Magistrate of Thurso, who furnished the chief part of Head IV. 



is a remarkable insulated rock, called the Clett, about 480 feet 
long, 240 feet broad, and 400 feet high, and 'distant from the land 
about 240 feet. This rock is considered a great curiosity, and is 
frequently visited by strangers. In the sunnnner months, it is co- 
vered with flocks of sea-fowl ; and this adds considerably to its 
striking and interesting appearance. 

Climate. — It is stated in Henderson's View of the Agriculture 
of Caithness, that for three-fourths of the year, viz. from Septem- 
ber to June, the wind generally blows from the west and north- 
west ; and that, during the other fourth of the year, it is variable 
from south-west to south-east, and is but seldom northerly. The 
climate is healthy, though variable. During a great part of the 
year, the air is keen and piercing ; but in summer there is a good 
deal of inild and warm weather. 

Hydrography. — There are two small rivers in the parish. The 
principal river in the parish and in the county, is the river Thurso, 
from which the parish takes its name. It rises in the heights of 
the parish of Halkirk, an^ong the hills bounding Sutherland, and 
after reaching this parish traverses it from south to north, and 
flows into the sea in the immediate vicinity of the town. Its length 
is about thirty miles, and its greatest breadth about 100 yards. 
It adds much to the beauty of those parts of the parish through 
which it flows, at least, as much as can consist with unwooded banks. 
The other stream in the parish, and the fourth in size in the 
county, is the Water of Forss. It rises in the parish of Reay, and 
after reaching this parish divides it from that of Reay, forming the 
boundary between them, and flows into the sea at Cross-kirk Bay, 
near the House of Forss. 

Geology. — The principal rocks in the parish belong to the so- 
called old red sandstone. The general direction of the strata is 
from north-east to south-west. The dip on the shore of Thurso 
is north-west, and the inclination about twenty degrees. In some 
of the quarries inland, the dip is south-east. 

The soil consists chiefly of clay and loam, resting on sandstone 
flag and slate-clay rock. 

Zoology. — The chief kinds of fish in the bay of Thurso are, had- 
dock, cod, herring, and salmon. The herring appear in May, and 
continue until August. The salmon would go up the rivers to 
spawn in August, but are prevented till the 14th of September, 
until which time the rivers are shut. It is considered injurious 


that the rivers are not open sooner, as the number of spawning 
fish is thus reduced. The spawning fish return to the sea about 
the month of April. The principal Crustacea found in the bay of 
Thurso are lobsters, 

II. — Civil History. 

Sir John Sinclair mentions that there is an account of this pa- 
rish in Macfarlane's Geographical Collection, preserved in the 
Advocates' Library ; but it is presumed that the account drawn 
up by Sir John himself, and contained in his Statistical Account 
of Scotland, is the fullest that has ever been written. 

With regard to the ancient history of Thurso, Sir John ob- 
serves that the town appears to have been a place of very consi- 
derable trade and consequence, many centuries ago ; and, in proof 
of this, states, that, according to Skene's account of the assize of 
David, King of Scotland, the weight of Caithness was ordered to 
be observed in buying and selling over all Scotland ; which could 
not, he thinks, have been the case, had not Caithness been dis- 
tinguished for the extent of its commercial transactions, of which 
Thurso was probably the centre. It was not, however, till the 
year 1633, that Thurso was erected into a free burgh of barony. 
The only other events connected with its history, which Sir John 
considers worthy of being recorded, are the two following: In the 
reign of Charles the First, it was visited by the Earl of Montrose ; 
and in the spring of 1 746, a band of rebels, under Lord M'Leod, 
marched into the county, but returned without doing more than 
obliging the landholders to pay them part of the land-tax, and 
were, on their return, attacked and worsted near Dunrobin Castle. 
There is a small map of the parish prefixed to Sir John Sinclair's 

Eminent Characters. — Of the eminent characters connected 
with the parish by birth or residence, the name of Sir John Sin- 
clair of Ulbster, author of the former Statistical Account, whose 
patriotic and indefatigable labours for the welfare and improve- 
ment of his country, and of his native county in particular, are so 
well known, claims special notice. Nor would it be right to omit 
the names of his three daughters; — Miss Hannah Sinclair, the 
writer of a short but very admirable letter on the Principles of the 
Christian Faith ; Lady Colquhoun, who has written two or three 
pious works of a plain and practical, but very attractive character; 
and Miss Catherine Sinclair, who has already given to the world 


several volumes of tales and travels, and has distinguished herself 
as a very elegant and lively, as well as instructive writer. Sir 
John, in his account of eminent characters, states, that the Os- 
walds of Glasgow, who were eminent merchants there, were ori- 
ginally from Thurso; and that Richard Oswald, merchant in 
London, and one of the plenipotentiaries from Great Britain in 
settling the peace in 1783, was an unsuccessful candidate, upon 
a comparative trial, for the office of schoolmaster of Thurso. He 
makes mention also of a Mr Mcintosh, son of a schoolmaster in 
Thurso, who became an eminent portrait painter in Moscow ; and 
of two young ladies of the name of Liddell, natives of Thurso, 
who had removed to Edinburgh, who showed a great turn for mu- 
sic and painting, and attained to considerable eminence in the 
latter art 

Chief Land'oumers. — The chief land-owners in the parish, be- 
sides the Crown, which possesses the lands of Scrabster, are. Sir 
George Sinclair of Ulbster, the present excellent and accom- 
plished Member for the county ; James Sinclair, Esq. of Forss, 
who is constantly resident, and who deserves much commendation 
for his anxiety to provide the young on his estates with the means 
of a proper education ; Sir John Gordon Sinclair of Murkle, and 
Sir Patrick Murray Thriepland of Fingask. 

Parochial Registers. — The parochial registers, including the 
Session records, extend to seven volumes, of about 600 folio pages 
each. The first entry is in 1648^ 

Antiquities, — About half a mile to the west of Tliurso, in the 
centre of the crescent-formed bank which skirts the bay, stand the 
ruins of an old castle, beautifully situated on the sea, once the 
residence of the bishops of Caithness. Scarcely any of the build- 
ing remains, but it appears to have been a place of considerable 
size and strength. About two miles to the east of the town, is 
the burial place of Earl Harold, the possessor at one time of the 
half of Orkney, and Zetland, and of the half of Caithness, who 
was slain in battle in the year 1 190, while endeavouring to recover 
his property from the hands of a tyrant, the wicked Earl Harold. 
Over his grave the late Sir John Sinclair, on the suggestion of 
Mr Alexander Pope, minister of Reay, one of the greatest anti- 
quaries in the north, erected an edifice, called Harold's Tower, 
which, as seen from a distance, possesses somewhat of a striking 


Modem Buildinffs.^^The principal modern building in the pa- 
rish is the parish church, which is a very handsome structure, and 
a great ornament to the town. It cost about L. 6000. 

IIL — Population. 
The population of the parish, as given in the account of the 

parish already referred to, as preserved in the Advocates' Library, 
was 2200, 900 in the town of Thurso, and 1300 in the rest of the 
parish. The date of this account is not known. In 1755, the po- 
pulation was 2963; and at the date of Sir John Sinclair's Account 
in 1798, it was 3146. In 1831, the population was 4679, of which 
2124 were males, and 2555 females. The number of the popu- 
lation residing in the town of Thurso in 1831 was 2429, and in 
the country, 2250. The yearly average of births for the last 
seven years was about 140, and of marriages about 16. The num- 
ber of persons under 15 years of age is about 1600. 

There are very few individuals or families of independent for<- 
tune residing in the parish. There are no proprietors of land of 
the yearly value of L. 50 or upwards, except those already men- 
tioned as the chief land-owners in the parish. Thej are five in 
number. The number of families in the parish in 1831 was 1036, 
696 in the town, and 440 in the country. The average number 
of children in each family is two, or rather less. The number of 
inhabited houses was in 1831, 739; 367 in the town, and 372 in 
the country. There were 17 houses uninhabited or building in 

There are 2 insane persons, 4 fatuous, 2 blind, and 2 deaf and 


The language generally spoken is the English. The Gaelic 
IS spoken by a few, but it is yearly losing ground. 

The ordinary food of the labouring classes consists of meal in 
its various preparations of bread, pottage, brose, and gruel ; milk, 
potatoes, and herring. 

Character of the People. — The general character of the people, 
intellectual, moral, and religious, no doubt requires great improve- 
ment ; yet, as compared with that in other parts of Scotland, it is 
rather above than below mediocrity. The bulk of the people are 
quiet and orderly, and manifest considerable regard for religion 
and religious services. 

Neither poaching nor smuggling prevails to any great extent. 

The number of males employed in agriculture is . . 386 

employed in manufactures and in retail trade and bandicrafl, 402 


The number of professional persons and other educated men, . • ^^ 

of labourers not agricuUaraly . • 218 

of other males, • • * . ^' 

of male servants, of whom only three are above 20 years of age, is 13 
of female servants, ..... 254 

IV. — Industry. 
Agriculture. — 

The number of acres, standard imperial measure, which are either cultivat- 

ed or occasionally in tillage, is about . 12,000 

The number of acres which have never been cultivated, 10,000 

The number that might, with a profitable application of capital, be added to 
the cultivated land of the parish, . . . 7000 

There is no undivided common. . The number of acres under 
wood is 40. The trees planted are, plane, fir,, ash, elm, oak, and 
mountain-ash : the management of which is on the whole tolera- 
bly good. 

Rent. — The average rent of arable land in the parish is L. 1 
per acre. The average rent of grazing is at the rate of L. 2 per 
ox or cow grazed, and 6s. 6d. per ewe or full-grown sheep pas- 
tured for the year. 

Wages. — The rate of labour for farm-labourers is Is. 6d. per 
day, and for country artisans from 2s. to 3s. The rate of mason- 
work is L. 2 per rood. 

Live-Stock. — The common breed of sheep are the Leicester 
and Cheviot, and of cattle the Highland and Teeswater ; to the 
improvement of both of which much attention has been paid. 

Husbandry. — The most approved system of husbandry pursued 
is that called the five crop shift, being a rotation of turnips, bear, 
bay, pasture, and oats. Great improvements are taking place in 
the reclaiming of waste lands, and in draining, which is practised 
to a considerable extent on the most improved farms, and is yearly 
extending to others. 

Leases. — Leases generally extend from seven to nineteen years 
in the larger description of farms. The smaller farms are in ge- 
neral occupied without leases to the great injury of the land, and 
also of the tenant. 

Farm-buildings are improving rapidly, and are in general in a 
comfortable state. Tnclosures are increasing, but not in the same 

The principal improvements which have recently been made in 
the parish consist in the dividing, draining, and enclosing of com- 
mons, and in the building of comfortable cottages for the settlers 
on their respective^ lands. 
The great want of capital may be stated as the principal obsta- 


cte to improvement. To this are to be added the low price of 
farm produce, and the want of leases. 

Quarries, — There are in this parish sev.eral slate, freestone, and 
whinstone quarries. The slate quarries have been for some vears 
extensively worked, and the flags which they furnish have been 
exported to London, Newcastle, and Glasgow, and other cities, 
and towns in England and Scotland, where they have been used 
for pavement. About 250 men are employed in dressing these 

Fisheries. — The principal fisheries carried on in the parish are, 
the herring, salmon, haddock, cod, and lobster. The salmon fish- 
ings rent at L. 1000, the others are free. 

Produce. — The average gross amount of raw produce raised in 
the parish, as nearly as can be ascertained, is as follows : — 

Produce of grain of all kinds, . . L. 28000 

potatoes, turnipsi &c. . • . 6000 

hay, . . 4000 

land in pasture at L. 1, 10s. per cow or ox, and 58. per ewe, . 5000 

gardens and orchards, . 200 

thinnings of woods, • . . . 5 

fisheries, . . . . 5000 

quarries, . . . . 2000 

miscellaneous proJuce, . . . 2000 

Total yearly value of raw produce raised, L. 52,205 

Manufactures. — The manufacture of straw-plait employs about 
58 females; the manufacture of leather 15 men, and a rope-work 
12. Linen and woollen manufactures, and the manufacture of her* 
ring nets, occupy about 200 persons. 

Navigation. — There are 14 ships or vessels belonging to the 

port. The number trading to the port, but not belonging to it, 

is about 40. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Market-Town. — The town of Thurso is the only market-town 

in the parish. It is pleasantly situated on the sea at the mouth 
of the river which bears its name. It commands a very noble and 
extensive sea-view, comprising, first, the beautiful bay of Thurso, 
included within the two commanding headlands of Dunnet and 
Holburn ; next, the more exposed and stormy waters of the Pent* 
land Frith ; and beyond, the islands of Orkney with their lofty 
and rocky sides, terminating westward in the majestic promontory 
of Hoy. 

Thurso lays claim to considerable antiquity. As already stated, 
it was a place of some consequence several centuries ago. The 


old church, which was ODly quitted as a place of worship in ISSS, 
and which contained 900 sitters, was said to be upwards of 500 
years old. 

The town is made up of an old and a new town united together. 
The new town is built according to a regular plan ; and though 
this cannot be said of the old town, yet it contains a few regular 
streets, and some good and substantial houses. The new town is 
yearly increasing in size. 

The present population of the town is, as has been stated al- 
ready, upwards of 2400« It has three magistrates, nominated by 
the superior of the burgh, Sir George Sinclair. 

Means of Commtmicatian, — The ordinary means of communica- 
tion are enjoyed by the parish. There are good roads and a daily 
mail coach to and from the south. Three times a week there is 
a coach between Thurso and Tongue. There are two sailing 
vessels from Thurso to Leith, and, except during the winter 
months, there is weekly a steam-boat from Wick to Leith. To 
Wick, which is twenty-one miles from Thurso, the mail-coach 
travels daily, performing the journey in two hours and a half. 

Thurso is a post-town, and has a daily dispatch and arrival to 
and from the south. It is itself the most northern post-town in 
Great Britain. There is a post three times a week to and from 
Tongue and the places intervening, on the west, and a daily post 
to and from Castleton and Dunnet on the east 

The turnpike road along the coast of the parish from east to west is 
eight miles and a half long, of which three miles are to the east of 
the town, and five mile&and a half to the west Besides this road, 
there is the mail<road to the south, which traverses about six miles 
of this parish. There is also another road to the west of the mail- 
road, and almost parallel to it, on the west side of the river, lead- 
ing from Thurso to the village of Halkirk. There are only four 
miles of this road in this parish. From this road, another road 
branches off to the west, about two miles from Thurso, and joins 
the coast-road at Reay. Of this branch, ther^ are about two 
miles and a half in this parish, besides the two miles from Thurso 
to the point at which it branches off. 

The only public carriage which travels through the parish is the 
mail to and from the south, and to and from the west, as already 

There are several bridges in the parisb> and all in good condi- 


tion. The principal is that over the river Thurso, at the entrance 
to the town from the south and east This bridge is a very large 
and substantial and ornamental one. It was not in existence at 
the time of Sir John Sinclair's Account, in which much is said of 
the great inconvenience felt by the want of a bridge. It is diffi-^ 
cult to imagine now, how this want could have been so long borne. 
There are not many fences in the parish ; but where they are to 
be found, they are generally in good condition. 

There is a harbour at Thurso at the mouth of the river, where 
vessels of twelve feet draught land and lie in safety. Scrabster Roads, 
within the bay of I'hurso, distant about a mile from the town, 
affords good and safe anchorage for vessels of any size ; and it is 
at present in contemplation to erect a pier there. 

Ecckriastical iS/a/e.— The parish church has been already spoken 
of as a very handsome structure. It is situated in the town of 
Thurso, which, considering the number of people in the town, is 
manifestly the most convenient place for its erection. It is dis- 
tant three miles from the eastern extremity of the parish, and six 
from the southern and western extremities. On the north it is 
within a quarter of a mile from the sea. It was built in 1632, and 
opened for public worship in January 1833, and is, as might be 
expected, in a good state of repair. It affords accommodation for 
1540 persons. There are but 32 free-sittings set apart for the 
use of the poor. 

The manse was built about the year 1770, and was repaired in 

The giebe consists of about 7 or 8 acres, and may be of the 
yearly value of L.15. 

The stipend is 18 chalders standard imperial measure, half meal,, 
half barley. There being no barley fiars struck in the county, 
the barley is paid according to the fiars' price of bear. LilO are 
allowed for communion elements. 

There is no place of worship in the parish attached to the Esta-^ 
blishment, except the parish church. 

There is no missionary in the parish. There is a catechist sup- 
ported by the people, with the aid of a small salary from the So- 
ciety for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The office has been 
for some time vacant, but a new appointment is about being 

There is a meeting-house in the town belonging to a congrega* 


lion of Original Seceders. There is also an Independent chai)el. 

A small Baptist congregation assembles in a room in a private 

house. The ministers of these places of worship are paid by their 


' There is no Episcopalian or Roman Catholic chapel in the 


The number of families attending the Establislied Church may 
be about 800, and the number of individuals about 2400. 

The number of families attending the other places of worship 
may be about 200, and the number of individuals about 600. 
Some of these are from other parishes. 

The average attendance in ordinary weather at the parish 
church is from 1400 to 1500; and at the Dissenting places of 
worship 500. 

The number of communicants connected with the Established 
Church is about 300. 

There is a Bible Society in Thurso, supported by Christians of 
all denominations, which collects about L. 30 annually. There is 
a Parochial Association for support of the Assembly's schemes, 
whose funds, except for Church Extension, are derived wholly 
from collections at the church door. The sum collected may also 
average about L. 30 per annum. This is independent of an an* 
nual sum of L. 38, subscribed for church extension for five years, 
and which has already been paid for one year. 

There is a Society in the parish for the relief of the destitute 
sick, supported by Christians of all denominations, whose receipts 
may average L.15 annually. 

The average amount of collections at the parish church for re- 
ligious and charitable objects, including the L. 30 already specified, 
and including also the ordinary collections for the poor, is about 
L.120. Of this sum the ordinary collections for the poor make 
up L. 80. 

Education. — The number of schools in the parish is about 16, 
viz. 1 parochial, 12 unendowed, 2 supported by societies, and 1 
by subscription. Besides these, an Assembly school is about being 

In many of these schools only English reading is taught. In 
others, are taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and in female 
schools, sewing ; and in a few, the usual higher branches. 

The salary of the parochial schoolmaster is the maximum. The 


salaries of the Society teachers are L.15 and L.12. The promised 
salary of the Assembly teacher to be appointed is L. 20. With 
the exception of the parish school and two or three others, the 
amount of fees is very small. The parochial teacher possesses 
the legal accommodations. 

The general expense of education for the year in the parish 
school, is lOs. for beginners, increasing to L.1, 10s. orL.2forthe 
more advanced. In inferior. schools, the expense for beginners is 
about 6s. a-year, and 10s. for the more advanced. In female 
schools, in which the higher branches are taught, the expense is 
considerably greater than in the parish school. 

About 200 children between six and fifteen years of age cannot 
read ; about 600 cannot write. The whole number of children 
between six and fifteen is about 950. The number of persons 
above fifteen who cannot read is about 120. 

The people in general are alive to the benefits of education, 
and are anxious to have their children educated. 

After the Assembly school is opened, there will be no part of 
the parish so distant from school as to prevent attendance, nor 
will there be any additional schools required ; but some of the 
schools in existence are in a very precarious state from the want 
of any endowment 

Literature, — There are two circulating libraries in the parish, 
and two reading-rooms. 

Charitable and other Institutions. — There is no almshouse, hos- 
pital, dispensary, or asylum. There are 5 Friendly Societies, the 
oldest of which has existed about forty years, and the latest about 
twenty. Their design and tendency are manifestly good, but they 
are not by any means in a flourishing state. There is no Sa- 
vings Bank. 

Poor and Parochial Funds, — The average number of persons 
receiving parochial aid is 160. The average sum allotted to each 
is 5s. The annual amount contributed for their relief is about 
L.112, of which there is collected at the church door L.80; L.25 
is voluntarily subscribed by the heritors for the support of two lu- 
natics ; and L. 6, 18s. is the interest of two sums left as legacies. 
With a few exceptions the poor do not consider it degrading to 
apply for parochial relief. 

Prisons. — The county jail is in Wick. There is merely a 
lock-up-house in Thurso, where criminals are confined till they 
be sent to Wick. Within the last year there were five persons 


confined here, three for rioting, and two for theft. The longest 
period any of them was confined here was ten days. 

Fairs. — There are three fairs held in the parish, the Peters- 
mas, in the end of June ; the Oeorgemas, in July ; and the Mary- 
mas, in the beginning of September. They are intended chiefly 
for the sale of cattle and sheep. 

Irrns and Alehouses* — There are 2 or 3 inns and about 30 ale- 
houses in the parish. These last cannot but have an injurious ef- 
fect ; but it is hoped both their number and their influence are 

Fuel. — A good deal of English coal is used in the town of 
Thurso ; but many of the town's people, and all the people in the 
country, with a few exceptions, consume nothing but peats. 
These are to be found in abundance in the parish ; and the tenants 
have a right to take of them at no other cost but that of the time 
and labour, (which, however, are considerable,) required for cast- 
ing them and carrying them home. 

October 1840, 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 

Situation, Boundaries, <$-c. — The parish is situated between 
58% 36' and 59^ north latitude, and between 2% 59' and 3' 
80' west longitude. The greater part of it lies in the county of 
Caithness. A part, however, denominated Strathalladale, is in the 
county of Sutherland. Its length is Id miles, and its breadth 
9 miles. It is bounded on the east and south-east, by the pa- 
rishes of Thurso and Halkirk, in Caithness ; and on the west and 
south-west, by the parishes of Farr and Kildonan in Sutherland. 

Name. — There are various conjectures respecting the etymoloi- 
gy of its name. It is supposed to be a corruption of Mein-Reidh, 

* Drawn up by Mr W. G. Forbes, Parochial Schoolmaster of Reay. 

REAY. 13 

or Miora — two Gaelic terms signifying smooth and plain, that 
part of the parish particularly named Reay, being smooth and 
plain, in comparison of the other parts which are in general rug- 
ged and hilly. But the most probable derivation is, that R^y 
is a corruption from Urray, the name of a Pictish hero, who 
inhabited the castle, to this day called Knock«- Urray. The an- 
cient orthography of the parish was Re, or Rae, but the modern 
is Reay. It would appear from the fragment of an old poem, for- 
merly among the northern Highlanders, which was sung in 
honour of Dornadilla, that Reay was a place of some nolo* The 
lines are : — 

« Dun Dornigil MooDuff, 

A in n*taodb re Miora do n*trath.'* 

Eng. — ^^ The dun or castle of Dornadilla, the son of Duff, built on 
the side of the strath next to Reay." But that Reay was anciently 
a place of consequence appears from a discovery made in 1751. 
A water^spout which fell in that year five miles above Reay, oc- 
casioned so great a torrent as to cut out a new channel through 
the sand between Reay and the shore 16 feet deep> which disco* 
vered the remains of a town. The ends of seven houses, built with 
stone, were seen in a line, and the remains of several others, with 
some pieces of pavement. The stones being of good quality were 
carried off, and the banks soon falling prevented any farther search. 
Pieces of earthenware were found among the ruins. Tradition 
says that Reay was a burgh of regality. A market cross stood 
there formerly ; but it has now been removed to New Reay. 

Topographical Appearances. — Its figure, particularly on the 
south and south-east, is very irregular. There are no mountain 
ranges. The only considerable mountains are, part of Ben Greim, 
Ben-na-Bad, Ben Shurery, Ben Radh, and Ben Ruaidh. There 
are, besides, several hills of considerable height, Knock-na-Barei- 
bhich, Knock-Sleitiil, and Muillanan Liadh, &c. Strathalladale, 
lying in the county of Sutherland, presents the appearance of a 
valley from top to bottom, extending in length eighteen miles. 
The only flat and low lands lie along the coast. 

The shore at Borrowston presents a number of small caves; one 
in particular, into which, when a stone is cast, it emits a hpllow echo- 
ing sound, resembling that of Gling Glang, which is the name given 
it by the inhabitants. On the same shore, there is also a strong na- 
tural arch, covered with green turf, on a level with the adjacent 
ground, and leading over a chasm about forty feet deep, into which 


the tide flows. In Ben Radh there is a cavern said to have been 
formerly the resort of a gang of robbers, the entrance of which is 
formed by two natural stone pillars inclining towards each other. 
There are several other caves of various forms and sizes to the 
west of Fresgo-Head. 

The extent of the sea shore is about nine miles, a considerable 
part of which is clayey, incumbent on a horizontal rock, and its 
aspect is bold and rocky. 

The principal bays are those of Sandside and Bighouse, the 
former of which is about a mile in breadth, surrounded by beauti- 
ful sandy links, to the extent of about a mile. These links pro- 
duce excellent pasture, and in them are found great quantities of 
various kinds of sea-shells. The principal headland is Fresgo- 
Head at Sandside. 

Climate, — The atmosphere is dry and healthy. Thunder and 
lightning, followed by heavy falls of rain, generally occur in the 
months of June and July. When flashes of lightning are seen 
<luring the winter months, they prognosticate severe gales of wind 
from the north-west, accompanied by rain or snow. The country 
people remark, that when on a clear night they observe the de- 
scent of a meteor called by them a falling star, it indicates an ap- 
proaching storm. The Polar Lights are seen frequently during 
autumn and winter, and sometimes at other periods of the year. 
When seen low in the horizon they are said to prognosticate fair 
weather, and when extended across our zenith, foul and stormy 
weather. The prevailing winds are from the north and north- 
west ; and in the winter and spring seasons, there are frequent hard 
gales from those quarters, and as there are no woods nor high lands 
on the north side of the parish, the inclemency of the weather is 
greatly felt. From the beginning of May to the middle of June, 
the prevailing wind is generally from the north-west, with a bleak 
cloudy sky, which depresses vegetation very much, and is said to 
nourish that pernicious insect called the grub caterpillar. 

The most prevalent distempers of the district are, fevers, con- 
sumptions, and rheumatisms. The mortality occasioned by the 
small-pox, measles, and chincough has for some years past much 
abated. Fgvers frequently cause a considerable mortality. 

Hydrography. — Many parts of the parish abound with perennial 
springs of excellent water. A few years ago, a mineral spring was 
discovered near a place called Helshetter, the water of which is 
thought to be not much inferior to that of the Strathpefler wells. 

REAV. 15 

There is another mineral spring issuing at the foot of a rock at 
Craigtown in Dunreay, on the sea shore, of superior quality. The 
mineral springs in general are seemingly chalybeate. In Brawlbin 
there are perennial springs, remarkable for the purity and light- 
ness of their waters, which are rather of a whitish colour. But as 
these waters are seldom applied to the cure of diseases, they do 
not engage the attention of the public. 

Of the lakes, which are numerous but small, the principal are, 
Loch Shurery, Loch Cailm, Locb Scye, Loch Sleitill, — the last 
of which in particular abounds with superior red trout, some of 
which measure from two to three feet long. The scenery is 
varied, and in general not uninteresting. The Halladale river 
takes its rise near Knock-na-Ba-Reibhich, in the boundary between 
the parishes of Kildonan and Reay, and in its course runs in a di- 
rection almost due north, through a strath of the same name, un- ' 
til it discharges itself into the bay of Bighouse. Its length is up- 
wards of twenty miles and average breadth twenty yards. Again, 
the Forss river, which oritrinates from a small lake south of Ben-na- 
Bad passes near Loch Cailm, and through Loch Shurery, and af- 
ter various windings falls into the bay of Crosskirk, dividing this 
parish on the east from the parish of Thurso. 

Geology and Mineralogy, — Mountain Rock Formations, — There 
are numerous interesting displays of the sandstones and sandstone, 
slates so prevalent in the county ; and of the primitive formations 
there are granite, syenite, hornblende rocks, gneiss and quartz rock. 

Limestones and Ores. — In 1802, there was discovered upon 
the estate of Sandside, the property of William Innes, Esq. a little 
to the west of his house, a bed of limestone, apparently ten feet 
thick ; the bed dips to the north. A little to the west of 
that, another limestone bed occurs, four feet thick, of which the 
dip is north-west; and still farther west, red granite comes boldly 
down to the sea, interspersed with several veins of granite, and 
large veins of felspar. On the east side of this ridge of granite 
Occur the strata, which are general on the coast, of a bluish slate. 
Near Lake-na-Clachan Geal, was found oxyde of manganese of 
considerable purity, imbedded in decomposed red granite. There 
has been opened at a place named Ary-Leive, the property of the 
same gentleman, a fine limestone quarry, in which the strata dip 
north-east It is at present wrought on a large scale, and the lime 
is much used in the cultivation of new lands. Large quarries of 


fVeestone are found in difierent parts of the parish. And shell 
marl is dug up in large quantities in Dunreay and Brawlbin, which 
is of no small advantage to the adjoining lands* 
'^\ In the Caithness division of the parish, the soil is fertile. To- 
wards the sea coast, about Borrowston and Dunreay, the soil is 
clayey, incumbent on a gray freestone and bluish slate, and very 
tenacious of moisture, but sandy about Reay and Sandside. 

In the Sutherland division, the soil is composed of dark earth 
mixed with crystally sand, and yields good crops when proper- 
Iv cultivated. * 

Zoology. — Of the animals found in the parish, the rarer are, deer, 
roebucks, badgers, foxes, otters, goats, and polecats. The birds 
are, eagles, cormorants, marrots, kingBshers, herpns, swans, wood- 
cocks, blackcocks, moorfowl, &c« 

Formerly in the spring season, large flocks of a small bird of the 
sparrow kind used to appear ; but for some years past, they have 
not been seen. The rivers abound with salmon, grilse, trout, and 
eels, as also flounders. Lobsters are plentiful on the coast. 

Drees. — There are neither forests nor plantations in the pa- 
rish, except a few natural birches in Strathalladale. The soil 
seems to be nowise congenial to their growth. A green hill to the 
east of the manse, named Koltag, produces different plants adapt- 
ed for medicinal purposes. 

II. — Civil History. 

Tradition relates that, at the time when the Danes overran 
these northern parts, a son of a Danish prince, named Alluva, 
was slain, ana interred at a place in Strathalladale, called after 
his name Dalalluva, and that another Danish prince, named Far- 
quhar, was interred at Brubster, in a place to this day denominated 
Clashna Farquhar. 

Eminent Men. — Under this head falls to be noticed the late 
Rev. David Mackay, who was minister of the parish upwards of 
half a century. In early life, he felt the power of divine truth on 
his soul, and as he advanced in years, he progressively realized the 
sweet influence of the Grospel, imparting light, purity, and peace 
to the heart, and sanctity and consistency to the life. Amid the 
varied trials iie was called to bear during a life of eighty-four, and 
a ministry of more than fifty-one years, the word of God was his 
support. He cultivated with assiduity an acquaintance with those 
literary and scientific subjects that tend to render the minister of the 

RBAY. 17 

Gospel, an intelligent, judicious, and instructive interpreter of the 
, word of God ; and from his pen appeared some interesting papers, 
distinguished by perspicuity, accuracy of reasoning, and orthodoxy 
of sentiment. Perhaps the most remarkable feature in his characte 
was the interest he took in. young men of talent, and the unweari- 
ed efforts he made to bring them forward from humble life, to 
stations of usefulness and respectability. His purse, his pen, and 
his whole energies were put forth, in order to foster rising merit, 
and patronize pious and gifted youth. And there are now those 
adorning important stations in the church, and in our highest aca- 
demical institutions, who fondly and gratefully cherish the re- 
membrance of a time when he, under God, was their only patron, 
and his recommendation their chief passport to the situations of 
importance which they now hold. 

Land'oumers. — Sir John Gordon Sinclair of Murkle, Bart.; the 
Duke of Sutherland ; Major Innes of Sandside ; James Sinclair of 
Forss ; Captain Macdonald of Shebster, are the chief land-owners. 

Parochial Registers. — The earliest entry in the parochial regis- 
ters is dated 1745 : but the registers were not regularly kept until 
the year 1783. 

Antiquities, — At Lybster, in the eastern part of the parish, stand 
the ruins of a Roman Catholic chapel, near which is a spring of 
water, thought to be the sacred fount ; and also in Shebster lie the 
ruins of another chapel of the same description ; close to which is 
a tomb, wherein lies a coffin, formed of four blocks of stone from 
6 to 7 feet long, and 2^ feet broad. Along the Halladale 
strath are the remains of several circular towers, about 60 or 70 
feet in diameter. The walls are thick, and artfully built of large 
stones, without mortar. They do not seem to have been intended 
for dwelling places, nor is it easy to determine to what purposes 
they were appropriated, unless it was for beacons, or watch-towers, 
— which is most probable, as they stand in sight of each other. 
On the top of Benfrectan, in Shurery, is an ancient fort, nearly a 
mile in circumference, the walls of which are upwards of twelve feet 
thick at bottomu* 

* Benfrectan, or the hill of the watch, is steep and rocky on three sides, and is con- 
nected with another hill by a narrow rock. In one of the steep sides of the rock 
there is a cave, narrow at the mouth, but capacious within. Shekes of rocks upon 
each side have the appearance of side benches. The length of the cave is about 
25 feet, breadth 9 or 10 feet, and it has a small aperture on the top. It was the 
asylum of two disaffected families for some time in 1745. 

llic hill of Shebster has the remains of two forts of the same kind, at some dis- 
tance from each other. Tradition says, there had been a subterraneous paf sage be- 
tween these two buildings, and this is rendered probable by the appearance of the 



Ill, — Population. 

The amount of the population by census 1801 was 2406 

1811, 2317 
1821 2758 

183l! 2881— males, d26; females 1555 
The population of the vilUige of New Reay, is 188— males, 80 ; females 106 

The annual average of births for the-last seven years is - ^ 

of deaths, as nearly as can be ascertained, is 40 
of marriages, • .20 

The average number of persons under 15 years of age is 187 

ftt>m 15 to dO, 807 

dO to 50, . 665 

50 to 70, 324 

upwards of 70, 96 

The number of femih'es and individuals of independent fortune residing in Um 

parish, is • . • . . 6 

of bachelors, . .12 

of widowers, upwards of 50 -years of age, . 20 

of unmarried women, upwards of 45 years of age, • 100 

Number of insane in the parish, 2 ; blind, 9 ; deaf, 6 ; dumb, 10, 

Language^ ^c. — The Gaelic language is still spoken, but has 
greatly lost ground within these last twenty years. The inhabit- 
ants are in general industrious, temperate, economical, and very 
hospitable. Some years ago, the best dress of the women was a blue 
duffle cloak : now they appear on Sabbath days in silk and muslin 
gowns, shawls, and straw bonnets. The farmers' wives do not now 
make those coarse low-priced cloths for the market, which they 
made formerly, owing to their having no sheep, and the price of 
wool being high. The ordinary food of the peasantry is oat- 
cakes, potatoes, fish, milk, and, on particular occasions, they have 
mutton, beef, &c. They are in general intelligent, moral, and re- 
ligious. The distress at present existing in the parish, however, 
is great in the extreme. The most of the parish has been con- 
verted into sheep-farms, and consequently, the poor people have 
been ejected from their houses and lands, many of them reduced 
to indigence and misery, and others necessitated to emigrate to a 
foreign land. Formerly, smuggling or illicit distillation prevailed 
very much, — which was attended with very pernicious consequences 
in regard to health and morals. 

IV. — Industry. 

Agriculture. — By ancient calculation, the parish contains 
271 pennylands of arable ground, at eight acres to each 
pennyland. The pasture ground unfit for cultivation is very 
extensive ; but its precise extent has not been ascertained. 

The average rent of arable ground per acre is L.1 ; ofgrazincr, 
L. 1, Is. per annum ; for an ox per month, 4s. 6d. ; for a cow 
from L. 1, is. to L.1, 4s. per annum ; for a ewe, t3s. per annum. 


RBAT. 19 


fViyes* — Blaid^servants' wages in the half year, from L. 1, 5s. 
to L.1, lOs^ and men-servants', from L.3 to L.4, 10s. per half 
year. The prices of provisions are as follow : Beef, 4^. to 
5d. per lb. ; mutton, 4d. per do. ; pork, Sd. ; butter, 8d. to lOd. 
cheese, Sd. to 4d. ; tallow, 5d. to 6d. per lb. ; average price of 
beans per boll, L. 1 ; oatmeal, 16s. ; geese, from 2s. 6d. to Ss. 
each ; hens, 8d. to lOd. ; eggs, 8d. per dozen ; salmon, 6d. per lb. ; 
haddocks, from 6d. to 8d. per dozen. 

Day labourers in husbandry receive from Is. to Is. 8d. per day 
without victuals ; carpenters and masons from 2s. 6d. to 3s. per 

Live*Stoch. — The Cheviot breed of sheep are the most com- 
mon since the introduction of sheep-farming. Our small native 
breed of sheep is fast decreasing. Our breed of cattle is the black 
Highland. Prior to the introduction of sheep-farming, improve- 
ments in agriculture were daily increasing, and still a considerable 
extent of new land is cultivated from the moor or hill, by Major 
Jones of Sandside and Captain Macdonald of Shebster. A great 
part of Major Innes and Captain Macdonald's lands are enclos- 
ed. The roads have been greatly improved, and bridges built 
where they were necessary. But the greatest improvement is at 
Halladale, belonging to the Duke of Sutherland. A new channel, 
at a vast expense, has been dug for the water, and a high and 
strong embankment raised to confine the river from flooding an ex- 
tensive meadow of very excellent pasture, thought to be worth up- 
wards of L. 200 per annum. 

Leases. — The general duration of leases is seven, fourteen, nine- 
teen, and twenty- one years ; but leases are in fact seldom granted, 
which is a principal obstacle to agricultural improvements, as the 
tenant^ who may be removed at the will of the proprietor, cannot 
depend on reaping the benefit of his labour ; he is, therefore, loth 
to incur expenses in improving his farm. 

Quarries. — Quarries of freestone have been opened in different 
parts of the parish, one in particular at Glen-Craggach, from 40 
to 50 feet deep, from which large blocks of stone for millstones 
are extracted. 

Fisheries. — For several years past we have had a herring- fishery 
established here, at Portskerray, Sandside bay, and Lybster ; as 
also salmon-fishing at the same ports. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 

The nearest mMI*ket-town is Thurso, which is eleven miles dis- 


tant. The only village is NIbw Reay. A maiWoach runs be- 
tween Thurso and Tongue, and passes here every alternate day ; 
and there is a post-office at Reay and at Melvich, 

A very neat and commodious harbour has lately been built in 
the bay of Sandside by Major Innes, on which upwards of L. dCMM) 
hUve already been expended. While it encourages and promotes 
trade and commerce, it is also of great advantage to the herring- 

Etcltsiastical State. — The parish church was built in 1739, is at 
present in good repair, and conveniently situated for the greater pari 
of the population. It affords accommodation for 650 sitters. All 
the sittings are free, except in one gallery, built out of the poor's 
fund, and rented for behoof of the poor of the parish. The manse 
was built in 1788. The extent of the glebe is from 6 to 7 acares. 
It lies at a mile's distance from the manse, and lets at L.5 Sterling, 
but there isalso a small croft contiguous to the manse, which may be 
worth about L.2* The amount of stipend is 190 bolls, 1 firlot, 2 
pecks grain, with L. 60 Scots^ allowance for communion elements. 
A missionary preaches every third Sabbath at Dispolly in Strathal- 
ladale, supported partly by the Royal Bounty, and partly by the 
people. There is a catechist, too, supported in the same manner^ 
and elected by the kirk-session. We have no Dissenting nor Se- 
ceding chapels, nor indeed any Dissenters. Divine service on 
the Lord's-day is well attended. 

' Education.'^Tbere are five schools in the parish-^the parochial 
school at New Reay, an Assembly's school at Melvich, and three 
supported by individual subscription. The branches of instruction 
generally taught in them, are^ English reading, writing, arithmetic, 
and English grammar, and in the parochial and Assembly schoolsi 
Greek, Latm, mathematics, geography, &c The salary of the 
parochial schoolmaster is the maximum. The number of young be- 
tween the ages of six and fifteen years who can neither read nor 
write is about 54, and the number of those upwards-of fifteen years 
unable to read or. write is about 200. The people in general are 
alive to the benefits of education, and there is a great and visible 
change in their conduct and morals since the diffusion of know- 
ledge became so general. That pernicious attachment to the 
drinking of spirituous liquors, which formerly prevailed, has now 
been in a great measure abandoned. 

Poor arid Parochial -FimA.— The average number of persons 
receiving parochial aid is at present upwards of 100, and average 


sum allotted each per year, Ss. The annual amount of contribu- 
.tions for their relief is principally from church collections. There 
is certainly a disposition among them to refrain from seeking pa- 
rochial relief; and they do consider it degrading, but sheer ne- 
cessity urges them to it There are no prisons. 

Fairs. — Two fairs are held at the cross of New Reay^ one in 
the beginning of September, and the other in the end of Decem- 
ber; but very little business is transacted at either. 

/fii».— -There are four inns or public-houses'; but we are happy 
to state, that the people are now so far ali?e to the evils of 
whisky-drinking, and the poverty and misery attendant on in- 
temperance, as to frequent them but very seldom. 

Fkd, — The fuel commonly made use of is peat Every one 
cuts and prepares this for himself. 

Jufy 1840. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 

Name, Boundaries^ Extenty S^e, — It is difficult to say what is the 
origin of the name of this parish. Some have supposed it to be 
a corruption of ^^ Canute's bay.'' Others imagine it to be firom the 
plant Canna, which seems to have been at one time very abundant 
in the place. This latter derivation appears the more probable, 
from the circumstance that in all the older parochial registers the 
name is spelt Cannasbay. 

The figure of the parish is on the whole exceedingly regular. 
It forms the north-east corner of Scotland ; and is bounded on 
the east, by the German Ocean ; on the north, by the Pentland 
Frith ; on the west, by the parish of Dunnet ; and on the south, 
by the parishes of Bower and Wick. From east to west along the 
Pentland Frith the length is upwards of 8 miles ; and from north 
to south, where it is washed by the German Ocean, the breadth is 
nearly 8 miles, but the mean breadth may be estimated at 6 


miles. The island of Stroma, situated in the Pentland Frith, and 
about a league distant from the mainland, belongs to the parish. 
The word Stroma is supposed to be of Danish or Norwegian ori^ 
gin, and signifies the island in the current Stroma contains about 
a square mile of surface ; thus the whole extent of the parish may 
be stated at about 50 square miles. 

Canisbay is remarkably level The Ward or Watch hill is the 
only eminence of any moment in the parish. Its height above 
the level of the sea may be about 800 feet. 

The principal headlands are Grey-head, Skirsa-head, St John's 
or Mey*head, and Duncansbay^head. The last mentioned head- 
land, the Berubium of Ptolemy, from which the shore runs nearly 
due west and due south, is decidedly the most beautiful promontory 
in the north of Scotland. It is about two miles in circumference, 
and is indented by several large ravines or ffoes^ as they are here 
termed. It contains one remarkable fissure open down to the level 
of the sea, into which the tides ebb and flow through an opening at 
the base of the intervening rock. It has a natural bridge across 
of alu>ut six yards wide, which is called by the inhabitants, the gbq^ 
In the west end of the island of Stroma there is a similar chasm 
about thirty yards from the precipice. The sea has access to 
it also by an opening at the bottom ; and the natives of the 
island are in the habit of descending into the chasm, (a task which 
is not extremely difiicuU to accomplish,) and of going out at the 
entrance below, and of fishing from the rocks. 

The coast on the east side is bold and precipitous ; on the 
north it is more level, though in different places the rocks are of 
considerable altitude. Near Duncansbay Head are two insulated 
rocks of an oval form, surrounded by the sea, called the Stacks of 
Duncansbay. They shoot up a great height. One 
of them is considerably larger than the other : and when seen froni 
a little distance, they look like the huge spires of some old Gothic 
edifice. During the spring and summer months they form the 
rendezvous of innumerable sea fowl ; and on the top of the larger 
stack the eagle has its eyrie. 

The only bays are, Freswick bay on the east ; and Duncansbay 
and Gills bays on the north. Along Freswick bay, the beach is 
composed principally of sand, a mixture of sandstone and shells. 
The beach at Duncansbay is altogether of broken shells. At 
Gills, he beach consists of flat rocks interspersed with shingle. 
There is a sandy beach at Huna, a mixture of shells and sand* 
stone, but scarcely any thing deserving the name of a bay. 


Meteorology. — The temperature of the atmosphere is milder 
than might be expected in this high latitude. The summers arc 
not very warm, nor the winters very cold. This may be attributed 
to the flatness of the surface, and to the sea bordering on so great 
a part of the parish. The most prevalent winds are from the west 
and south-west. After the autumnal equinox, there commonly 
falls a great quantity of rain for the subsequent six months. The 
weather, on the average of the year, may be described as moist 
and variable, rather than tempestuous. The aurora borealis is 
often seen here in great splendour. It begins to be visible in the 
month of September, and is occasionally of uncommon brilliancy. 
It has been observed in a few instances to assume a dark purple 
tinge, which gives it an awfully beautiful and magnificent appear- 

Climate. — There are no diseases peculiar to the place. The 
most prevalent distempers are, fever, inflammation, and rheuma* 
tism. The employments of the greater part of the inhabitants, 
exposing them to the moisture and variableness of the climatOi 
may partially account for the predominance of these. 

Hydrography. — The Pentland Frith separates the Orkney 
islands from the north of Scotland. It forms a communication 
between the German and Atlantic Oceans, and is reckoned twenty- 
four miles in length, and from twelve to fourteen miles in average 
breadth. At the east end of the frith, stretching from Duncans- 
bay Head, is a rough and dangerous piece of sea, called the Boars 
of Duncansbay ; and opposite to St John's Head in Mey, there 
is also a similar piece of sea, called the Men of Mey. In both 
places, the tide is very rapid, and the roughness is produced by 
the collision of different currents. The Men of Mey and the 
Boars of Duncansbay appear only alternately, the former with the 
ebb, and the latter with the flood-tide. The current in the Pent- 
land Frith is said to run at spring-tides nine miles, and in stormy 
weather ten miles an hour. For about half an hour at the turn 
of the tide, little or no current is perceptible. North-east from 
Duncansbay Head, in the eastern entrance of the frith, and about 
six miles distant, lie the Pentland Skerries. On the larger of the 
two, a light-house was erected some years ago. It consists of 
two towers, the one considerably higher than the other, with a 
stationary light on each. Now that a light-house has been erected 
on Dunnet Head, at the western entrance of the frith, the navi- 
gation has become comparatively safe even at night 

Springs. — There is abundance of fresh water springs in the ^« 


rish. There are also some mineral springs of the chalybeate kind. 
The most remarkable of these is one near the old castle of Fres- 
wick. The loch of Mey is the only loch in the parish ; its cir- 
cumference may be about a mile and a-half, and its depth is not 
great. There is no river, — and only a few rivulets or burns, col- 
lected from the different mosses in the winter season ; the chief 
of these is the bum of Freswick. 

Geohgy and Mineralogy. — The rocks in general are composed 
of a red sandstone, and in some places of a rock resembling grey- 
wacke. At Quoys there is a little limestone ; and at Mey, on the 
property of the Earl of Caithness, there is abundance of it to be ob- 
tained. A light black loan^ with an intermixture of moss, forms 
the general character of the cultivated ground. The lands of Mey 
have in some places a mixture of clay. Heath and deep moss, 
with an occasional patch of rough pasture grass, cover fully nine- 
tenths of the parish. 

Zoology. — There are no rare or uncommon animals. At one 

period, indeed, wolves are said to have existed in the parish. 

Between Brabster and Freswick, there is a hollow, called Wolfs 

Bum : the tradition is, that the last wolf seen in Caithness was 

killed in this particular spot All around the coast, cod are to« 

lerably numerous : and lobsters also are caught in considerable 

numbers. Coal-fish, or, as they are provincially termed, euddens^ 

are at some seasons of the year caught in immense quantities, and 

are of great use to the poorer inhabitants, as they not only serve 

for food, but supply plenty of oil for light. 

11. — Civil History. 
Eminent Men. — Under this head we may notice the Rev. John 

Morison, D. D., for eighteen years minister of this parish. He 
was the author of several of the paraphrases approved by a Com- 
mittee of the General Assembly, and appended to the Vevsion of 
the Psalms used in the Church of Scotland. His are, the 19th, 
2l6t, 27th, 2dth, 29th, dOth, and d5th. His versions of the 27th 
and 28th were said to have been slightly altered by Logan, who 
was his contemporary and intimate friend. Several effusions of 
Dr Morison's youthful muse appeared in the Edinburgh Weekly 
Magazine, under the signature of Mus»us. By the testimony of 
all who knew him, Dr Morison was an accomplished scholar, and 
an eloquent preacher. He was a native of Aberdeenshire, and 
died on 12th June 1798, in the 49th year of his age. 

Land- owners. — The proprietors are, the Right Honourable the 
Earl of Caithness ; William James John Alexander Sinclair of 


Freswicky at present a minor^ patron of the parish ; and George 
•Sutherland Sbclair, Esq. of Brabster. 

Parochial Reffisters.^^The registers commence in 1651) and 
were r^ularly kept till the Restoration. From that period down 
to 1706, there are no records of any kind whatever. The only 
other gap occurs a few years prior to 1747. From this latte)* 
date down to the present time, the registers have been regularly 
kept ; all the births and marriages are registered ; the deaths are 
not . 

Antiquities.-^This parish seems at one time to have been di- 
vided into districts, and to have had chapels for religious purposes 
in each of them. Scarcely a vestige now remains of any of these 
chapels, but several aged individuals remember to have seen some 
of thenu They are still known by name. At Mey, on St John's 
Head, there was one dedicated to St John ; at Freswick, one to 
St Maddan j at Brabster, one to St Tustan ; at Duncansbay, one 
to the Virgin Mary, the locality of which is still known by the 
name of Lady Kirk ; and it is highly probable that what is now 
the parish church was originally intended only for the use of the 
adjoining district. At Freswick are to be seen the ruins of an 
old castle, called Bucholie Castle. It seems to be of very great 
antiquity. Pennant in his Tour says that it was inhabited by a 
Danish nobleman of the name of Suenus Asteilf in the twelfth 
century. It is situated on a high rock, almost surrounded by the 
sea, and appears to have been a place of considerable strength. 
On the top of Duncansbay Head, and about fifty yards from the 
precipice, may be traced the site of a circular building of about 
twenty teet diameter, which is supposed to have been a watch-* 
tower, and to have communicated with a similar one on the top 
of the Warth Hill. The distance from Duncansbay Head to 
the Warth or Watch Hill is about two miles, and a signal from 
the one would of course be readily perceived at the other. 

There are no traces of camps or forts; but from some entries 
in the Session records it would appear that either Cromwell or 
some of his officers were in this remote corner. Thus March 29, 
1652, ^^ No session holden, by reasone the Inglishe being quarter- 
ed in the- bounds, the congregation was few in number, and ther 
was not a sederunt of elders, nather was ther any delinquents 
charged." Again May 2, 1652, " Ther not being a sederunt, by 
reasone of a partio of Inglishe horsemen being in our feilds, whilk 
made the congregation fewer in number, and severall of the elde 
to be absent." And again, December 30, 1655, ** Adam 


convict of drinking on the Sabbathe, and haveing masking plays 
in bis house for the Inglishemen, he was ordained to mak publick 
confession of his £siult the next Sabbatb.^^ 

As this old register contains some curious entries, I shall quote 
a few of them. ** December 27, 1652, Ordained yt for mending 
ye people, ye better to keepe the kirk, a roll of ye names of the 
families be taken up, and Sabbathlie, yt they be called upon by 
name, and who bees netted absent sail pay 40d. toties quoties.*' 
Again same day and date, ^^ Item, Ordained yt if ane elder 
or other paroshiner be fund drinking in ane ailhouse on the 
Sabbath day, or extraordinarly on the week-day, who bees net- 
ted to faill sail pay 40d. for the first fait, and mak publick 
confession before the congregation, with certification if any be 
fund to fall therein againe, they sail undergoe higher censure, 
especially an elder/' Again, ^^ March 4, 1654, For mending 
the people of Stroma to keepe the kirk better, it was ordained 
yt no passenger coming over to the kirk sail pay any fraught, 
and if any yt heve boats stay away they sail pay 3 p. 4d. and 
others 40d/' This is a most salutary regulation, and, 1 am 
sorry to say, as necessary now, if it could be carried into effect as it 
was nearly 200 years ago. I shall only add one other extract It is 
regarding the appointment of a schoolmaster in this parish in the 
year 1660, and furnishes a remarkable contrast even with the present 
very inadequate remuneration of parochial teachers : '^ Oct. 28, 
] 660. So few elders remaining as no session culd be holden, yet 
the minister with them yt were present haveing the consent of the 
rest, condescended and agreed with Donald Reid Skinner to be 
schoolmaster at Cannisbey, for teaching the young children that 
suld be sent to him, and for his paines 5 bolls victuall was pro- 
mised him in the yeir, whilk he thinking too little yet accepted to 
undertake the charge, and to enter with all convenient diligence 
provideing the said 5 bolls victuall be duelie payed, and that he 
may have furniture of peats to supplie his present need." 

About a mile and a half to the west of the beautiful promon- 
tory of Duncansbay Head stood the celebrated John o' Groat's 
House. Nothing but the site where this once famous building is 
said to have stood, is now to be discerned. The traditionary story 
respecting Malcolm, Gavin, and John de Groat having arrived 
here from Holland in the reign of James IV. of Scotland ; their 
having purchased the lands of Duncansbay ; their commemorating 
their arrival by an annual festive meeting, and the ingenious plan 
which John de Groat adopted of building an octagonal house with 



a corresponding number of doorsy. &c., to prevent all quarrels about 
precedence among the eight different families or proprietors of 
that name, among whom the property seems, in process of time, 
to have been divided ; — is so well known, that it would be superflu- 
ous to repeat it here. 

Modem Buildings. — Barrogill Castle, the seat of the Earls of 
Caithness, has of late received great additions, and is now an ele- 
gant and commodious residence* The House of Freswick is a 
large building, but from its not having been inhabited for many 
years, is in a state of disrepair. The mansion-house of Brabster 
is situated in an inland part of the parish, and is not now inhabited : 
its owner, George S. Sinclair, Esq. has lately enlarged the House 
of West Canisbay, situated on a part of his property near the sea, 
and rendered it a comfortable residence. 

- The parish church received a very extensive repair in the years 
1832-33. It was newly floored, seated, and roofed. 

HI. — Population. 

The population in 1755 was 1481 

1801, 1966 
1811, 1936 
1821, 2128 
1831, 2364 
1836, 2409 
The yearly^average of births for the last seven years, 70 


marriages, . 

Number of families in the parish in 1831, 

chiefly employed in agriculture, 

in trade, mannfactures, or handicraft, 50 

The only permanently residing heritor is George Sutherland 
Sinclair, Esq. of Brabster. The Earl of Caithness occasionally 
passes a few months at Barrogill Castle. 

There are only two farms in the parish, with the exception of 
what the heritors themselves cultivate, that let for more than L.50 
per annum. The inhabitants in general rent small possessions, 
varying from L.] to L.dO per annum. The most common rent is 
from L. 5 to L. 20. The principal dependence of the people is 
upon fishing, and, with very few exceptions, all the males fish for 
themselves and their families. 

The houses in general are built partly of stones and partly of turf : 
they are roofed with turf and straw, and contain two apartments. 

The people are sober and industrious, and, were it not for the 
excessively high rents, would be contented with their situation and 

There are at present in the parish 2 insane, 3 idiots, 3 blind, 
2 deaf and dumb children. 






A cowideniWe degree of aciiteness and shrewdness is observ- 
able anooff the population, and scandalous offences are seldom 
bMid o£ Tbe language spoken is the common dialect of the 
k^wJaods of Scotland. Gaelic is not known. 

Smusffling prevailed at one time to a great extent in the island 
of Stfoma, and its^ peculiar situation gave it great advantages for 
tbat illicil trade; but, by the indefatigable exertions of the Excise, 
it has within the last year or two been entirely suppressed. As 
misht naturally be expected, the effects of smuggling on the morals 
of the inhabitants were most pernicious ; and from their being oc* 
ctsionally detected by the excise, and severely fined, their worldly 
cjicumstances were materially injured. 

IV. — Industry. 

Agriculture and Rural Economy. — The precise number of acres 
in the parish has never been ascertained. I should think that not 
more than one-tenth has ever been in a state of cultivation. The 
arable ground may therefore be estimated at 3200 acres, and the 
moorland and pasture at 28,800 acres. The latter is in a state 
of undivided common, and, from the great depth of moss that 
covers the greater part of it, would be very difficult to bring it into 
cultivation. The tenants are in the habit of sending their horses, 
cattle, swine, and sheep during the spring, summer, and autumn 
months, to pasture on the common nearest their possessions. Re- 
cently, however, the Earl of Caithness has instituted a process 
claiming a division of the whole coomions in the parish, the pre- 
lude, it is to be hoped, of a better system. 

Rent. — The rent of arable land is high ; little of it being lower 
than L. 1, and the greater part as high as L.2, 2s. per acre. Till of 
late years, it was the practice to pay part of the rent in money, and 
part in victual. The proprietor of the lands of Freswick still re- 
ceives the rent in this latter manner; but the other two proprietors 
have converted the victual into money, at the rate of L. 1 per bolL 
This has proved virtually a very great raising of rent, as none of 
the tenants have, with the exception of the crop 1838, received 
more than from 12s. to 18s. per boll for their victual at market. 

Rate of Wages. — Farm-servants are generally hired for the 
year, and receive from L.6 to L.6^ with 3 bolls of oatmeal, 3 bolls 
of barleymeal, and a competent quantity of potatoes, peats, and 
n^ilk. A day labourer's wages are Is. 6d. in summer, and Is. in 
winter. Females employed as shearers in harvest receive L. 1, 
with half a boll of meal, and some potatoes; and males L. 1, 2s. 
to L. 1, 5s., with (I boll of meal, and potatoes for tlie whole har- 


vest A mason's daily wages af e from 128. to 2s. 6d. ; and a car- 
penter's from 2s. 6d. to Ss. ; and other artisans in proportion. 

ImpUmentg of Husbandry. — The ploughs now generally in use 
are made of iron, and cost from L. 2, 10s. to L. 3, and are drawn 
by two horses. The carts had till lately wooden axles ; now they 
are seldom to be seen, having almost all been supplanted by iron 

'Breeds of Live-stock. — The sheep are in general of a very in- 
different, and, I suppose, indigenous breed. They are small in 
size^ and of every shade of colour from black to white. No at- 
tempts have been made to improve them. They belong to the 
different tenants, who may have from ten to twenty each. Their 
wool is short but soft. It is spun by the females in the winter sea- 
son, and either weaved into blankets or knit into stockings for the 
use of the family. It is also woven into a kind of cloth here 
called black-grey, which is made into wearing clothes for the more 
aged members of the family. The breed of cattle is also very infe- 
rior. Swine are exceedingly numerous. Every family rears one, and 
most families two. They grow to a greater size than might be ex- 
pected from the manner in which they are attended to in their 
youth, and bring at market from L.l, 10s. to L.2, 10s. The Earl 
of Caithness, on his farm of Barrogill mains, has a few Cheviots, 
which answer well. He has also several fine cattle of the Tees- 
water breed. The proprietor of Freswick has at his farm at Fres- 
wick some very fine Highland cattle. And George S. Sinclair of 
Brabster has on his farm several of the Teeswater breed ; and he 
has lately got a few sheep of a cross between the Leicester and 
Cheviot, which have hitherto fully answered bis expectations. 

Husbandry. — With the exception of what the proprietors them- 
selves cultivate, the land is wretchedly cultivated. Rotation of 
crops is unknown among the common people. Bear or big, and 
oats with potatoes for the use of the family, are the only crops to 
be seen. From the cultivated parts of the parish lying in general 
along the shore, and, from the great abundance of sea-weed for 
manure, the crops of bear are good ; but the oat crop is almost 
always very indifferent The fructifying qualities of the sea-weed 
seem to be exhausted in one season; and as neither sea- weed nor 
any other manure is ever laid on the land allotted io the oats, this 
may account for their inferiority. 

Leases are seldom granted, and this is a very great obstacle to 

Little has been done in the way of reclaiming waste land. The 


proprietors do not attempt it, and the people are deterred by the 
immediate imposition of rent Some of the tenants are beginning 
to see the adrantage of sowing turnips and grass ; but the want of 
all enclosures, and the common practice o( turning at large horses 
and cattle, whene?er the harvest is gathered, to find provender 
wherever they can, have hitherto prevented improvement, and till 
the proprietors enforce a difierent system, will continue to keep 
this parish b^ind the rest of Scotland in agriculture. 

The tenants have the houses on their possessions valued at their 
entry; are obliged to keep them in repair; and at their removal 
they u»i^ to get allovrance for any improvement m their value 
durii^j^ the time of their occupancy, and to pay for any depreciation 
in Y;jiUie: but of late this allowance or compri$ementy as it is here 
caUedft has been in many instances refused by the proprietors or 
their agents. No wonder^ theni considering all these unfavour- 
able circumstances, thnt husbandry is in no very flourishing con- 
dition, and that the dwelling-houses of the tenantry are far from 
commodious or comfortable. 

Fisheries. — There are several boats employed yearly in fishing 
lobsters for the London market. The crew of each boat consists 
of two men, and the price received for each lobster is commonly 
threepence. The whole sum brought into the parish from this 
source may be estimated at about L.50 Sterling. There are also 
about thirty large boats of ten tons each, used only for fishing 
herrings. The crew of each consists of five men. They leave this 
for Wick and the neighbouring stations in the middle of July, and 
commonly continue absent from seven to eight weeks. The her- 
rings caught by them are sold fresh to the different curers. The 
value of one of these boats, with a full drift of nets, falls little short 
of L. 100, and the annual average returns to each crew may be 
stated at from L.50 to L.60 Sterling. 

iVodttCf.— The average gross amount and value of raw produce 
raised in the parish for the food of man and the domestic animals, 
as nearly as can be ascertained, may be stated as follows :«- 

Grain of all kinds, say T . L.6000 

Potatoes, turnips, hay, and pasture, say 1600 

liberies, say 1650 

Total yearly value of raw produce raised, }i.9250 

Mavufactures. — The shores of Canisbay used to yield annually 
above 100 tons of kelp; but now, from its depreciation in value, 
scarcely any is made. 

v.— Parochial Economy. 

Market'tovms, Sfc. — There is no market-town in theparish. Wick 


is the markei-towD of the east end of the parish, being sixteen 
miles and a^balf distant from the church, and ten miles from the 
neaiest boundary ; and Thurso, of the west end of the parish, be- 
ing eighteen miles from the church and twelve miles from the 
nearest boundary. 

There are two post-offices, one at Mey and one at Huna. From 
the fast mentioned, the mail-boat with the Orkney bags crosses 
the frith three times a week : but, by a recent arrangement, it is 
intended to cross every lawful day. The distance from Huna to 
the landing place in Orkney is twelve miles, and the freight of the 
boat is 10s. ; but a passenger going along with the mails pays only 
Is. To Huna the mail is conveyed daily from Wick in a gig ; 
and to Mey there is a runner from Thurso post-office every lawful 
day ; between Mey and Huna post-offices, a distance of five miles, 
there is no communication. 

Boadt. — The length of good and passable turnpike road in the 
parish is twelve miles. An old road that runs for a considerable 
distance parallel to the new line, and which passes through the 
inhabited parts of the parish, is principally used by the parishioners, 
though in a total state of disrepair. By the Act of Parliament 
that authorized the new line, the old line also is appointed to be 
kept in repair, but, I believe, want of funds has hitherto prevented 
this most desirable object from being carried into effect. A cross 
road through Brabstermire is very much needed to give the inha- 
bitants access to the middle of the county. The roads in this pa- 
rish, as in Caithness, generally present the rather anomalous fact 
of being almost all parallel to each other, with scarcely a single 
connecting cross road. 

Harbours. — Notwithstanding the great number of boats, there 
is no regularly built harbour. 

Ecclesiastical State, — The period at which the church was built 
cannot be ascertained. It received a substantial repair, as was stated 
before, in the years 1832-3. Previously, the inhabitants had seats 
of their own, which they claimed as private property ; but since the 
new seating in 1833, the heritors have divided the sittings accord- 
ing to their respective valued rents, and let them annually — a sys- 
tem considered^by the people not only an innovation but an impo- 
sition. The form of the church is that of a cross : it is as conve- 
niently situated as it can possibly be, — being six miles and a-half 
from the one extremity of the parish, and five and a-half from the 
other. Giving the customary allowance to each sitter, the church 


would let fof 512 sitters, but will accommodate more. There are 
no free sittings. 

The manse received an extensive repair at the same time with 
the church, but cannot be made a comfortable house. The glebe, 
including garden and stance of manse and offices, is barely 4^ 
Scotch acres in extent, and may be valued at about L. 8 Sterling. 
The stipend is 120 imperial bolls of oat-meal ; 87 quarters, 8 
bushels barley ; and L. 10 for communion elements. 

There are no Government churches in the parish ; but to the Gro- 
vernment church at Keiss, in the parish of Wick, there is annexed a 
contiguous district of this parish, containing, according to the cen- 
sus of 1831, exactly 160 individuals. There is no Dissenting place 
of worship in the parish, unless we give that name to a meeting of 
a few Scotch Baptists in a room situate at the west end of the 

From a survey made in the spring of the year 1836, it appears 
that there are in the parish, quoad sacra, 24 Baptists, and 6 Inde- 
pendents, who along with their families make in all 77 souls. The 
members of the Establishment in full communion are 182, and with 
their families, and such as attend the Established Church but are 
not communicants, comprehend all the other inhabitants. The 
parish church is well attended in the summer months, but, from the 
badness of the roads in^'many places, often indifferently in winter. 

Education, — The schools are, the parochial school, two sup- 
ported by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Know- 
ledge, one subscription school, and two others on the teachers' own 
adventure. The parochial teacher has the legal accommodations $ 
:^nd the salary is the maximum, with an allowance of two guineas 
in lieu of a garden. The usual branches are taught, and the fees 
are extremely moderate. The total income, including the emolu- 
ments arising from the office of session-clerk, does not exceed L. 45 
per annum. The Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge aU 
low their teacher at Mey L. 15; and their teacher in Stroma L. 10, 
with L. 4 to his wife for teaching females to knit and sew. The 
whole income of each does not exceed L. 24 per annum. The 
teacher of the subscription school at Freswick receives L.14, but no 
fees : and the schools on the teachers' own adventure, being in the re- 
mote and poorer districts, cannot be reckoned as yielding more than 
fr(3m L.5 to L. 8 each. The branches principally taught in all the 
schools, are, English reading, writing, and arithmetic. All between 
six and fifteen«years of age can read, but the females are not com- 
monly taught to write. There are none upwards of fifteen years of 
€igc who cannot read, except a very few aged individuals. The 


district most in want of the means of education is the inland part 
of the parish, where the population is too small to be able to sup- 
port a teacher, and too remote to benefit by the schools already 
in existence. 

LUerature.'^Tvio years ago, Messrs Morison and Andrew 
Snody, natives of this parish, who left it many years ago, and have 
prospered in the Jegal profession, made a present of about 100 vo* 
lumes on religious subjects, as the beginning of a religious library. 
Mr George Dunnet, merchant in Thurso, also a native of this pa^ 
rish, has since given five guineas for the same benevolent purpose. 
The books already obtained are all generally taken out, and, from 
the care with which they have been selected, must prove of great 

Poor and Parochial Funds. — The average number of persons 
receiving parochial aid is about 90. The annual allowance to 
each varies from 6s. to 10s. ; certainly a very trifling sum, but the 
poor receive it very gratefully, as a small addition to their other 
means of subsistence. The collections in the church average about 
L. 14 annually. There are several small mortifications, the inte- 
rest of which is divided among the poor along with the annual col- 
lections. There is one legacy by a Mr Oswald of L. 100 ; one 
of L. 80 by a Mr Innes of South Carolina, son of Mr Innes who 
was once minister of this parish, and an annuity of 100 merks Scots, 
left by William Sinclair, Esq. of Freswick. To this, there is to 
be added interest upon an accumulation of L. 205 of William Sin- 
clair of Freswick's annuity, which had not been paid for many years. 
The whole gross income from interest of mortification and arrears, 
together with the collections in church, amounts annually to about 
h. 38 Sterling. There is no other fund for the support of the 
poor, and assessment for the purpose has never yet been made. 

Fairs. — Two small markets for the sale of horses, cattle, and 
swine are held in the parish — one in February at Freswick, and 
the other in December at Canisbay. 

Inns and Ale-houses. — There are no less than six inns, which 
have a pernicious influence on the morals and industry of the peo- 
ple. Half the number would be more than sufficient for all use- 
ful purposes^ Indeed, Huna inn may be said to be the only one 
indispensably necessary. 

Fuel — The only fuel is peat and turf from the mosses, which 
appear to be inexhaustible. The only expense incurred is the la- 
bour necessary for cutting, drying, and carrying the fuel home. 




In conclusion, I cannot say that the general appearance of the 
parish has materially varied since the last Statistical Account was 
drawn up. The proprietors have no doubt greatly improved around 
their family mansions ; but the general aspect of the parish, in an 
agricultural point of view, has undergone little or no change. The 
money brought into the parish by the fisheries is all required to 
answer the demands of the landlords; and a better system of hus- 
bandry and increased comfort to the labouring classes, cannot be 
expected till the rents are reduced, and encouraging leases grant- 
ed as in other places. The undivided state of the common has 
also proved a great obstacle to improvement. 

OctoBer 1840. 





L — Topography and Natural History. 

Name. — The name Dunnet is apparently derived from the 
Gaelic Dun, signifying hill. The names of many places in the 
parish are, however, of Danish extraction, as Ratter, Syster, 
Roaster, Sunnigoe, Ashigoe, Getterigoe, &c. 

Extent J ^c— -The form of the parish is very irregular, its great- 
est length being about 12 miles, its greatest breadth 6, and the 
narrowest point, from Dunnet to Brough, 2^ miles. It is bound- 
ed on the north and north-east, by the Pentland Frith ; on the 
east and south-east, by the parishes of Canisbay and Bower ; on 
the south, by those of Bower and Olrig; and on the south-west 
and west, by Olrig and Dunnet bay. 

With the exception of Dunnet-head, the whole parish may be 
considered a level district, the elevations being trifling, and run- 
ning in neariy parallel ridges, from north-east to south-west The 
highest point of Dunnet-head rises about 500 feet above the level 
of the sea,— the average height of the parish above that level does 
not exceed 150 feet. 


The extent of sea coast is about 15 miles, 1^ miles of which 
to the south of Dunnet are level sand, the remainder rocky. The 
shore round Dunnet-head is quite inaccessible from the land, 
for about eight miles, except at two or three places where the in- 
habitants can go down with difficulty. The remainder along the 
Pentland Frith is low and accessible at several creeks. 

Climate. — The atmosphere is clear when the wind is from the 
sea ; when from the land it is in autumn and spring moist, and the 
weather variable. The climate is on the whole healthy. Snow 
seldom lies any length of time, nor do frosts generally go deep 
into the soil. Crops are late in ripening — in general from four- 
teen to twenty days behind the Lothians. 

The current in the Pentland Frith is exceedingly strong during 
spring tides, so that no vessel can stem it. ' The flood tide runs 
from west to east at the rate of ten miles an hour, with new and 
full moon. It is then high water at Scarfskerry at nine o'clock. 
Immediately as the water begins to fall on the shore, the cur- 
rent turns to the west, but the strength of the flood is so great in 
the middle of the Frith, that it continues to run east till about 
twelve. These contiguous currents, running with such velocity from 
opposite directions, have a strange appearance from the land. 
With a gentle breeze of westerly wind about eight o'.clock in the 
morning, the whole frith seems as smooth as a sheet of glassy 
from Dunnet-head to Hoy-head in Orkney. About nine the sea 
begins to rage for about 100 yards off* the Head, while all without 
continues smooth as before. This appearance gradually advances 
towards the frith, and along the shore to the east, though the efiepts 
are not much felt upon the shore till it reaches Scarfskerry-^ 
head, which is about three miles distant from Dunnet-head, as 
the land between these points forms a considerable bay. By two 
o'clock the whole frith seems to rage. About three in the after- 
noon, it is low water on the' shore, when all the former phenome- 
na are reversed — the smooth water beginning to appear next the 
land, and advancing gradually till it reaches the middle of the 
frith. From the strength of the tides, and the surprising velo- 
city of these contiguous currents in opposite directions, Pentland 
Frith is a very dangerous navigation to strangers, especially if they 
approach near the land. But the natives along the coast are so 
well acquainted with the direction of the tides, that they can take 
advantage of every one of these currents, to carry them safe to 
one harbour or another. Hence very few accidents happen but 


from want of skill or knowledge of the tides. The frith is about 
twelve miles broad opposite to Dunnet. 

Hydrography. — There are ten small lakes on Dunnet-head ; 
they contain no fish of any kind* There are three, of a mile each, 
or thereby, in length, and about half that extent in breadth, in the 
lower part of the parish, viz. the Loch of Hayland, Syster, and St 
John's. The principal mi lis are supplied by them with water. There 
are a few trouts in the Loch of Syster ; the others are frequented by 
eels. There is a considerable quantity of marl in Loch Hayland. 
Loch Syster is also said to contain marl, but it has not been 
searched. The scenery of Loch Syster is very lonely, being 
nearly surrounded with deep moss in a barren district 

Geology. — In this parish there are only two dbtinct formations 
of rock. Dunnet-head is altogether composed of freestone, chiefly 
of a brownish cofour, but some of it white, very hard and durable. 
Tlie strata dip or incline to the north-east, at an angle of nearly 
45^. This headland contains 3000 acres. The remainder of the 
parish is the common flag-stone slate of the county, also generally 
dipping to the north-east, at an angle of from 20"" to 60^. No sim- 
ple minerals have been discovered in the parish. There are a 
number of springs, much impregnated with iron ; but this may 
arise from the slate containing a considerable portion of that mi- 

There are great varieties of soil in the parish. Dunnet-head is 
entirely covered with moss, to a considerable depth, betwixt which 
and the freestone, there is a hard pan of moorland, making the 
moss retentive of water. The cultivated lands round Dunnet are 
a dry black sandy loam ; also on the shore of the Pentland Frith, 
the soil is black loam lying on a sandy clay at about five feet from 
the rock. This soil is generally wet and difficult to drain ; it has 
no pan, but the clay being retentive, keeps the moisture on the 
surface. The southern districts of the parish are generally a 
clayey loam, lying on a bed of clay, from 2 to 5 feet in depth. 
Where the slate is rotten on the top, the land is dry ; where it is 
hard, the land is uniformly wet and retentive. There are also 
about 3000 acres of moss in the low ground, on the east of the 
parish, varying in depth from 2 to 16 feet, lying on blue clay — 
producing stunted heath and other coarse herbage. In these 
mosses, dwarf birch, hazel, and saughs are found near the bottom^ 
in considerable quantities, which show they were formerly covered 
with brushwood. To the east of Dunnet Bay, there are 2000 


acres of land covered with sand, from 1 to 10 feet, (the debris of 
Dunnet-head, carried into the bay by the sea, and drifted eastwards.) 
These links were formerly common, and overstocked and poached 
with cattle. They were subject to break up and drift into the in». 
terior, covering up considerable tracts of arable land, where the 
yestiges of the houses are still seen. They have since been di« 
vided and protected ; they are now covered with herbage. Bent 
grows rapidly near the shore, and arrests the progress of the sand, 
which is forming rapidly into a ridge of knolls already from 20 to 90 
feet above high water mark, and covered to the sea with bent. A 
small portion is still used as a common by the township of Dunnet ; 
the cattle destroy the bent, and it is still subject to breaking up 
and drifting. On these links, where spongy, a vast number of the 
marl shells breed on the surface ; but except the Loch of Hayland 
on the east of the links, there is no pond to retain them : hence, 
except in this loch, there is no marl, as the shelb are swept to the 
sea by the winter floods. 

Zoology, — Numbers of the various kinds of sea-fowl frequent 
the coast There are a few eagles, hawks, and ravens, vast num- 
bers of plovers and snipes, with a fair proportion of partridges and 
grouse, and almost all the varieties of small birds peculiar to Scot* 
land. Of wild quadrupeds the number is few, comprising otters, 
polecats, and weasels. Foxes have disappeared from the district ; 
hares abound, and there are a number of rabbits in the links — also 
a few seals along the coast 

There are still about 400 sheep on Dunnet-head, belonging to 
the small tenants surrounding it on the east, mostly of the original 
short-tailed breed of the country. They are the same race as the 
Shetland sheep — are small and nimble — produce a little fine wool, 
of various colours ; their mutton is very fine, but they seldom get 
fat, or weigh above 36 lbs. The young lambs are covered with a 
strong coat of curled hair for a few weeks after lambing, exactly 
resembling Siberian lamb skin, — hence I would attribute to them 
a Scandinavian origin. They are altogether a worthless breed, 
and not easily improved by crossing with more improved races of 

Dunnet Bay abounds with haddocks and other white fish. 
There is likewise a tolerable salmon-fishing at the mouth of 
the Burn of Dunnet Salmon are also taken in the Pentland 
Frith, near Brough, but the fishing there has not as yet been much 
prosecuted. There are occasionally shoals of herrings in the bay. 


ID June and July, but they are not to be depended on as affording a 
regular fishing. Great numbersof cod and ling are taken in the Pent'- 
land Frith, as well as lobsters and other shell fish. The lobsters are 
collected by a London company at dd. each, from the fishermen, 
and forwarded by smacks to the London market Nupnbers of Lon- 
don fishing smacks also frequent the frith for cod and ling. In the 
lakes there are a number of eels; and trouts only in the Loch of 
Syster. A few of these were put into the Loch of Dunnet, or 
St John's Loch, a few years ago, by Dr John Jolly. It is not 
yet ascertained if they have bred. St John's Loch is much re- 
sorted to on the first Monday of May, and the first Monday of 
August, November, and February, O. S., by invalids from all 
parts of the country. They walk round it, bathe, throw a piece of 
money into the water, and are out of sight of it by sunrise. Hy- 
pochondriacs and nervous people may sometimes feel better after 
this, from the power of imagination and exertion ; but those seri- 
ously ill are of course the worse for it, and die occasionally by 
the road. 

The secret of the matter seems to be this : there was a Ca* 
Iholic chapel (St John's,) at the east end of the lake, to the wa- 
ters of which the saint must have communicated virtuous qualities. 
The money is evidently the offering to the altar ; hence the very 
worthy practice of curing the sick and enriching the church. 
After the Reformation, the practice of throwing the money into the 
loch would begin, it being possible that the minister would instruct 
them to do so. It is astonishing, that in these days such a su- 
perstitious rite should be continued ; but so it is, and people who 
should know better have recourse to it. I do not think it does much 
good to the people in the parish ; it seems most efficacious to 
those at a distance. 

Botany. — There are a vast number of rare plants on Dunnet- 
Head in a dwarf state. It is said to be a field worth the in- 
spection of the scientific botanist The other districts of the pa- 
rish possess little rare or curious in this department. There is 
nothing worthy of the name of a tree in the parish. A few acres 
of hard-wood were planted three years ago by Mr Traill ; and 
they are promising to grow. Thorn hedges thrive pretty well on 
the clay soils, and walled gardens produce apples and other small 

II. — Civil History. 
The following inscription occurs on a grave-stone in the church- 

13UNNET. 39 

yard : " Here lies Margaret Wallace, daughter of William WaK 
lace, who was murdered by Alexander Calder, son of Alexander 
Calder, in Dunnet, because he could not have her in marriage ; 
August 29, in the year of God 1635/' There is still a tra* 
dition that the murder was committed on a Sunday morning, 
and that the murderer, by fleeing to Orkney, escaped punish- 

Land»awner9. — The parish is divided into three properties, be- 
twixt James Traill, Esq. of Ratter; William Sinclair, Esq. of 
Freswick; and the Kirk-session. The valued rent is L.2d09, 
I2s. 6d. Scots, and the real rent about 'L. 3600. 

The average of births and baptisms for the last seven years has been 61l^ 
marriages for the same period has been - ~ ^^^ 

There has not been a register of deaths or burials kept in the 
parish. Many of those whose forefathers resided in the neigh- 
bouring parishes have been buried with them, and many from 
th^ neighbouring parishes have, for a similar reason, been buried 

Antiquities. — Vestiges of three Roman Catholic chapels are still 
visible. One of them was situated at Dunnet-Head, and is supposed 
to have been a place of penance. There are a number of what are 
called Pictish houses over the parish. One of these at Ham is still 
pretty entire. They are supposed by Pennant to have been built 
by the Danes, who at one time possessed all the lower district of 
the county. Their construction seems to have been a circular 
room in the centre, contracting at the top like a bottle, by the pro- 
jection of one stone over another, with a number of out-buildings 
or cells all around. A doorway and passage, covered with strong 
lintels of stone, seem to have led into the centre apartment. 
There is seldom any thing discovered in them when opened, ex- 
cept deer horns, bones, and shells, and occasionally a quern 
stone. They are uniformly situated in the best land, which leads 
us to suppose they were the first settlements for cultivation 
in the county. Another peculiarity is, that there are always 
several of them to be seen from the one you stand upon. This may 
have been for mutual alarm. There are tumuli on all the prin- 
cipal heights in the parish, chiefly composed of small stones, which 
have evidently been in the fire. We are led to suppose they were 
beacons. There is one on the highest point of Dunnel-Head, 
one on the Hill of Barrock, and one on the Hill of Greenland. 

The principal building in the parish '\s the lighthouse, on 


the north-west extremity of Dunnet-Head, which has been erect* 
ed at a great expense, by the Commissioners for Northern 
Lights. It has proved useful for vessels passing the frith,-— 
they frequently mistaking the Bay of Dunnet for it, and get- 
ting wrecked on the sands. Here, on a promontory nearly 500 
feet above the level of the sea, exposed to the fiiry of the gales 
from the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded with moss, and about 
three miles from the nearest habitation, the art of man has made 
a comfortable' dwelling, a garden on deep moss producing fine 
vegetables, and parks where tolerable crops of corn and grass 
are raised on moss twelver feet deep. The principal light-keeper, 
Mr Adair, deserves much credit for his perseverance as a culti- 

III. — Population. 
The population, till within sixty years ago consisted simply of 

the proprietors and their tenants. The proprietors farmed the 
Mains ; the tenants had all more or less land allotted them, i|od 
the pasturage in common. They ploughed the land for the pro* 
prietors, carried the manure on their back% or in creels on ponies. 
They reaped, thrashed, and manufactured the crop, carried it to 
market, and shipped it They gave the proprietor part of their 
sheep, cattle, swine, geese, hens and eggs, and a small victual and 
money rent — they were, in fact, next thing to slaves. However, 
in this state, it is said, the proprietors kept excellent tables and 
lived well. The people, too, were not without their comforts. 
All their clothing was of home manufacture, some remnants of 
which are still to be seen — a kind of stuff of fine worsted, dyed 
very dark blue. It served for coat, vest, and breeches for Sim- 
days, and also for gowns to the females ; a more comfortable dress 
for a cold climate than the ruffles, ribbons, and flimsy fabrics now- 
a-days of Glasgow and Manchester. 
Amount of Papuiatiorij — 

, ,^^ Males. Feromlet. ToUl. 

In 1801 - 589 777 1866 

1809 -666 774 1440 

1811 . 638 760 1398 

1821 . 873 989 1862 

1881 - 932 974 1906 

The great disproportion of males and females in the beginning 
of this century was occasioned by the number of young men who 
had gone to the army and navy, or some other seafaring line ; and 
the great increase of population in 1821, was produced chiefly by 


i^boutdOO Highlanders from Assynt and Stratbnaver, who had 
been removed from their possessions by the introduction of sheep- 
fanning, and came to this parish. The greater part of them had 
removed before 1831. Their habits not being adapted to an in- 
dustrious life, they soon got in arrears with the landlord, and 
went off, some to the Highlands, others to America. With the 
above exception, the increase of population has risen partly from 
the extension of cultivation, and the fisheries, and the abolition of 
the feudal service which left the people more to their own re- 

The whole inhabitants may be said to be of the agricultural 
class, though those along the shore^side are frequently employ- 
ed in fishing. The parish is occupied by 84 tenants, paying from 
L. 8 to L. 350 rent yearly, and 201 paying firom ds. to L. 8 year** 
ly : there are besides ten large farms or mains in the occupation 
of the proprietors. 

Laa^guagt^ ffc. — The English language only is spoken by the 
original inhabitants. The few Highlanders remaining still partly 
retain the GraeUc The children all speak English, and that much 
better than in the southern counties. Playing the knotty (golf) 
on New- Year's Day is almost the only game practised. 

Habits of the People. — The habits of the people in dress and 
cleanliness have much improved of late years. The ordinary food 
is oat and barley-meal, with potatoes, fish, pork, beef, and occa- 
sionally tea and coffee. The practice of making malt and brew- 
ing ale is still understood ; but the severity of the excise laws pre- 
vents people from a liberal use of this wholesome beverage. There 
are, no doubt, numbers in the parish who are much pinched in cir- 
cumstances ; but in general, potatoes and fish of one kind or ano- 
ther, and meal and milk, are within the reach of all. Mostly every 
householder keeps a pig, the pork of which is used in summer, boil- 
ed with cabbage, and though there are a number of families very 
poor, from circumstances over which they have no control, stiU 
the mass of the population may be said to live comfortably, and 
with a considerable degree of independence. 

With regard to general character, they are an acute, sagacious, 
and moral set of people, and possessed of considerable energy in 
managing their own affidrs. With some, there is, perhaps, a want 
of industry, but this originates more from the nature of their 
situation than from indolence. The fisherman's life is too near 
akin to the hunter's for constant application, and the smaller te- 


Hants, liaving always a homey food, and fuel, do not, perhaps, be« 
stir themselves so much as they ought 

Poaching prevails to a considerable extent among the young 
-men, when there is snow on the ground. Smuggling is unknown, 
with the exception of small quantities of foreign spirits got by the 
fishermen from vessels passing the frith, and making a little malt 
for ale. But all that is done in either way is quite trifling. 

IV. — Industry. 
The general ejpployment of the people is agriculture and 
fishing. On the coast all are, to a certain extent, fishermen* 
After laying down their crofts in spring, they proceed to the lob- 
ster fishing. In the end of May and June, they cut their peats, 
and prepare for the herring fishing, which commences to the west 
of Thurso about the 1st of July, and sets in at Wick about the 
18th. The whole fishermen and most of the young females set off 
for that station, and remain there for six weeks. They come home 
in September, get their crops cut, and potatoes dug, and betake them- 
selves again to the fishing of cod, saifbes, and siloffs. This is the 
ordinary routine with the coast side population. In the interior, most 
of the cottagers go to the herring fishing, and are employed by the 
proprietors or larger fiumers at the harvest, when not needed at 
home, and afterwards at drsdning, ditching, and other agricultural 
operations. There is also a number of shoemakers, tailors, smiths, 
Wrights, and weavers in the parish, but all hold more or less land, 
Hud a great portion of them are at some seasons fishermen. The 
above is the most numerous class in the parish. The next is the 
tenant, paying from L. 15 to L. 50 rent, who follows no profession 
save agriculture, and that generally in its ancient form, viz. bear 
and oats alternately. Most of them, however, now grow a few 
turnips and a little clover, and are decidedly improving; but, parti v 
from want of skill, capital, and encouragement from proprietors in 
leases, fencing, and draining, they have made little progress in 
improving their farms or bettering their own condition. From the 
circumstance of the produce of the county far exceeding the wants 
of the population, especially the growth of beef and mutton, and 
the means of transport by steam being in operation, it is a ques- 
tion whether this class can long hold land, either with benefit to 
themselves or the proprietors, unless they exert themselves, and 
produce articles fit for the market, seeing that land is much lower 
rented here than farther south. And the southern markets being 


DOW opened up, it is folly to think that the land will lie idle, or 
only half-cultivated, for any length of time. 
' The next classes are the large tenants and the proprietors' farm* 
servants, who are constantly employed in agriculture. 

There are two retail shops and two public-houses in th6 parish. 

The extent of the parish is about 17,000 acres, whereo^5000 
are cultivated, and the remainder improvable pasture, moss, and 
links. The links may be stated at 2000 acres ; the moss 6000 acres, 
«— which leaves 4000 acres still capable of being brought into culti- 
vation. The rent of land varies much according to circumstances. 
It may, however, be taken as an average at 12s. per acre ; for arable 
land, varying from 5s. to L.1, 10s.[; the average of grazing a cow for 
a year on good land is L.4, on poor soils L.2. Leicester sheep, 
of which there are upwards of 700 in the parish, pay about L.1 
a-head ; the sheep kept on the moors by small tenants and on 
Dunnet-Head, are of little value, perhaps Is. 6d. each per 

Wages. — Farm servants' wages are, for men L. 6 to L. 8 yearly, 
6^ bolls oatmeal, 2 bolls potatoes, vnth house and fire, and a chopin 
of milk daily. Boys less in proportion. Out-door women get 
L.1, 10s., 2 bolls meal, with milk and potatoes for the half year. 
House servants (women) get from L.1, 10s. to L.1, 15s. half yearly. 
Shearers in harvest, for eight weeks, (men) get L.1, 10s. with a 
stone of meal weekly, a few potatoes, and a chopin of milk daily. 
Women, L.1 wages, half a boll of meal, a few potatoes, and a 
mutchkin of milk daily. Ordinary labourers get from Is. to Is. 6d. 
per day ; women 6d. ; wrights 2s. ; masons and blacksmiths the 
same. Mason work, wall height, girth measure, is done for 
L.1, 16s. per rood of 36 yards, all materials found. Wood, iron 
work, and saddlers' are fully higher than in other parts of the 

The common breed of cattle is an inferior description of the 
Highland, much deteriorated by importations from Orkney. They 
are generally sleek-skinned and coarsely made. In many instances 
they come to a good size, and the cows milk better than pure Higli- 
landers. In most cases, they are badly kept, and of course the 
great proportion of cattle stock in the parish is bad. The ordi- 
nary price of small tenants' two year old stots and queys, taken 
off by drovers, has for the last fifteen years ranged from L.1, 15s. 
to L. 3 ; the price of cows from L. 3 to L. 6. On the large farms 
and mains, where the land is well cultivated, and a regular sys- 


tem of alternate husbandry introduced, there are good stocks of 
cattle of the Teeswater breeds reaching at three years old, from 45 
to 56 stones beef^ and bringing in the London market from L.15 

to L.ia 

The general breed of sheep is the Leicester, with those before- 
mentioned on Dunnet-Head, and a few Cheviots kept by tenants. 
The Leicesters have hitherto thriven very well, produce wool 
equal to any in the kingdom, and get to a good weight at 15 
months old. Wedders of that age bring from L.J, 8s. to L.1, lOg^ 
each, and best ewes nearly the same. 

The breed of horses is of all descriptions, from the pony to the 
first-rate Clydesdale. Mr Gunn of Ratter imported a stallion 
twelve months ago from Lanarkshire, of an excellent figure, and 
at a high price (Lb 200). The size of cattle, horses, and other 
stock, as well as the quality of grain and green crops, is regulated 
by the size of the farms — where large, things in general are good, 
where small, bad in the extreme. The breed of swine has been 
much improved of late^ by importations of the best English va- 

Impropements. — On the farms in the parish, where improve-* 
ments have been made, or are making, the mode of reclaiming 
waste land is, to lay it out in suitable fields with ditches and thorn 
hedges, protected either with flag, which makes an excellent fence, 
or stone dikes 20 inches high with a Galloway cope, then under- 
drain with drains frgm 3 to 5 feet deep, as is necessary ; plough 
and allow it to lie for two years, then fallow and lime or marl, and 
if dry soil, make turnips with bone dust, which are fed off with 
sheep, — then a crop and grass seeds, if sufficiently reduced, if not, 

two crops, — then fallow and dung, and a crop with grass seeds, 

then pasture for three or four years. 

Substantial farm buildings have been erected and are erecting 
where improvements are going on. Mr Traill has expended a 
large sum in buildings, fences, drains, roads, and every thing else 
connected with the improvement of his estate. Freswick is also 
improving of late years. The links, moss, and waste ground, 
where under sheep, have been pasture-drained, which has improv- 
ed the surface much. The parish, with a trifling exception be- 
twixt Dunnet and Brough, is well provided with roads, and is ra- 
pidly improving, and there is little doubt of its continuing to do 
so, till its whole resources are called out ; and, however the occu- 
pations of the population may be changed, capital is only wanted 


to employ and give subsistence to more people than it contabs at 

The principal tenants have, in general, leases of from fourteen to 
twenty^ne years. The smaller are at will, but are seldom re- 
moved so long as they pay their rents, or conduct themselves with 
propriety, unless to make way for some other arrangement; and 
in that case they are generally provided with a possession else*- 

Quarries. — Dunnet-Head affords excellent freestone for all 
building purposes, besides mill-stones, rollers, gate-posts, &c. 
The demand is limited, and the rent about L. 10 yearly. The 
other parts of the parish are well supplied with quarries for build- 
ing, making roads, fences, and drains ; and in one case there is a 
tolerable quarry for pavement, which is at present working on Mr 
Traill's estate of Inkstack, which pavement is sawn in the edges, 
and wrought up to be fit for exportation to London, at a consider 
rable expense, affording profitable employment to a number of 

Fisheries. — The salmon are kitted in the usual way, and sent 
to London. The cod and ling are sometimes sold as mud-fish in 
winter; in spring and summer they are dried. 

Gross Amount of Raw Produce. — 

10,000 quarters oats and bear, at L.l, . • * L. 10,000 

Hay, turnips, and potatoes, . . ... 4,000 

Pasture of all kinds, ... ... 1,500 

Fisheries, excluidTe of herrings taken at Thurso and Wiok, . 400 

Quarries, . ... . ; . • 200 

T. 16.100 

Manufactures. — Formerly, a quantity of kelp was burned along 
the shore. It has been discontinued for some years, not paying 
the expense of manufacture. A number of females are employed 
in winter making herring nets, and working straw plait ; but neither 
affords above 4d. per day. The growing of flax and making of 
linen has also been discontinued in a great measure ; and from 
there being no other employment, except a little woollen cloth for 
home wear, females are not well employed in the winter season. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Market'ToumSf 8fc. — Thurso and Wick are the market-towns. 
There is nothing that can be called a village in the parish. Thur<* 
so is nine miles from Dunnet church. A sub-office to Thurso 
was established in 18S9. There is no post-office at present. 
It is hoped this grievance will soon be remedied. There 


is one good and safe harbour at HaiD, built at Mr Traill'^ 
expense. There are three landing places for boats at Dunnet, 
Brough, and Scarffskerry. A slip has been built at Brougb, at 
the expense of the Commissioners for Northern Lights, for land- 
ing their stores. Here a good harbour could be formed. Nothing 
has been done at Dunnet or Scarffskerry to aid nature. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The parish church is inconveniently si- 
tuated, being nearly at the western extremity of the parish, and 
distant about seven miles from the most easterly point But the 
few inhabitants in that remote quarter are near the church of 
Bower, and very seldom attend at Dunnet. The great bulk of 
the population are within four miles of the church. The church 
is an ancient building, was repaired in 1837, and an aisle added. 
It is now a comfortable and commodious edifice, capable of con* 
taining 700 sitters. The manse is in indifferent repair, and the 
oflBces ruinous. The glebe contains eight acres, besides the gar* 
den and the site of manse and offices, and is worth L. 12 yearly. 
The stipend is 1 12 bolls of oatmeal, 81 quarters, 4 bolls, 1 peck, 
1 gallon, 1^ quart bear, and L. 8^ 6s. 8d. of money. The liv- 
ing is in the gift of Sir James Colquhoun. The number of com-* 
municants is nearly 200, of whom 58 are male heads of families; 
There are a few Dissenters in the parish. Burghers, Anabaptists, 
and Methodists, — not exceeding 40 of all these persuasions. 

The average amount of church collections from Whitsunday 
1830 to Whitsunday 1836 was L. 10, 16s. lid. annually. From 
Whitsunday 1836 to Whitsunday 1837, they were only L. 6, 6s. 
2d., in consequence of the church being under repair. 

Education, — There are in the winter season, four schools in 
the parish besides the parochial school, supported by private sub- 
scription. The salary of the parish school is the maximum, 
amounting to L. 34, 4s. 4 jd. The school fees are moderate and 
ill paid. The salary, fees, &c. may amount to L. 45 per annum. 
Reading, writing, and arithmetic are principally taught in all the 
schools. The parochial schoolmaster teaches the higher branches 
of educiition. The people are quite alive to the value of educa- 
tion ; but, for the most part, can only send their children to school 
during the winter months, which prevents there being many good 
scholars. All, however, are taught to read and write, and have 
been so for many years. There is a hew school erected by Mr 
Traill in a centrical part of the parish, to which the Education 

DUN NET. 4 1 

Committee of the General Assembly has appointed a teacher with 
a salary of L.20 per annum^ and which will be of great bene6t« 

Friendly Society. — There Is one Friendly Society in theparish, 
but it has been prodoctive of no obvious advantages. 

Poor and Parochial Funds. — The average number of persons 
receiving parochial aid is about 100. The sum allotted to each 
of the greater part of them is a few shillings twice in the year. 
The more necessitous are supplied more liberally. 

The lands of Hollandmaik in the parish, were purchased in 
18d5 for the poor, at the price of L. 630, yielding a clear rent of 
about L. 25 per annum. There is also an annuity of L. 5, lis. 
1 ^^gd. payable from the estate of Freswick, and interest of L. 300 
capital, at 4^ per cent. L. 13, 10s. which, with the collections, 
say L. 10, 16s. lid., make a sum of L. 54, 18s.* From this sum is 
to be deducted L. 4, 1 Os., the interest of L. 1 00, appropriated by 
the donor, the late George Oswald, Esq. of Scotston, for paying 
the school fees of those children whose parents are unable|to pay, 
which leaves the sum of L. 52, 13s. for annual distribution. 
There are no poor rates. With few exceptions, those among whom 
the poor funds are divided, are objects of charity ; old and infirm 
people, who have no iamilies to help them ; widows with weak fa- 
milies, and the like. There is no general disposition to take pa- 
rochial relief where they have other means to rely on, such as as- 
sistance from children or relatives. 

Fairs. — There are four iairs or markets held in the parish an- 
nually for the sale of cattle, horses, sheep, &c., viz. one at Dun- 
net, first Tuesday of April, and the great market at the same place, 
on Tuesday, after 15th August, old style, which lasts two days, 
and is well attended. There is another on the first Tuesday of 
October, old style ; and the Reaster market, third Tuesday of 
October, old style. 

Fuel, — The fuel used is nearly altogether peats : it is of 
easy access, and good quality. The expense of it is not easily as- 
certained. A large cart load sells for 2s. Coals are imported 
at the neighbouring harbour of Castlehill, but little is used. 

Miscellaneous Observations. 
The arable land, by last Statistical Account, was 1600 Scots, 

or 2000 imperial acres ; it is now upwards of 5000 acres : the rent 

was then L.950, it is now about L.d600. The system of ploughing 

with oxen and horses, three and four abreast, has been dicontinued ; 

* The collections since the church wm repaired, L.13, 17s. lid. per annum. 


iron ploughs and two horses being in general use. The pernicious 
system of servitude is abolished. Wages of labour of all kinds are 
more than doubled. The population was then (1791) 1399, it is 
now 1906, — certainly enjoying more comfort than at that period, 
and doing a vast deal more business. The houses also, with a 
few exceptions, have been much improved : in many cases, com- 
fortable cottages have been erected. 

The improvement which the parish is susceptible of, has already 
been pointed out. There is certainly a want of employment for fe« 
males within doors ; perhaps the growth of flax and the working of it 
as in Flanders, might be of use to remedy this evil. There are also 
a number of small tenants at a distance from the sea, who would be 
better employed as labourers, and the land they possess would be 
more productive under a different system. Seeing the climate for^ 
bids the cultivation of the more valuable grains, wheat, barley, 
beans, and pease, (of all which the soil produces great crops, but 
they only ripen well in favourable seasons, and are not for a man 
to meddle with who has a rent to pay,) — the attention of the far- 
mer should be turned to grass, turnips, bear, and oats, which are 
produced, where well cultivated, in abundance. He should be ac- 
tive in rearing and feeding cattle and sheep for the southern mar- 
kets, which, now from the introduction of steam navigation, can 
be sent as cheap in a few hours by sea, as they could be driven by 
land in a month, some years ago. Thus, by increasing the ex- 
.ports of the parish, and getting money in return, its cultivation 
may be still farther extended and improved, and the quantity of 
labour increased, which is the only sure means of adding to the 
happiness and comfort of the labouring classes in a rural commu- 

October 1840. 





L — Topography and Natural History. 

Name. — The etymology of the name Watten is UDcertaiiL 
Some have supposed it to be a Danish word, signifying water^ and 
to have derived its application from the circumstance of this pa- 
rish containing the largest lake in the county. 

Extent^ Sfc. — The parish extends in extreme length from north- 
east to south-west about 10 miles, and in extreme breadth from 
north-west to south-east about 7 ; and its superficial contents may 
be reckoned in square miles at from 60 to 65. It is surrounded 
on the north, east, south, and west, by the parishes of Bower, 
Wick, Latheron, and Halkirk, respectively ; the boundaries or di- 
viding lines, however, cannot with propriety be called natural, but 
are, generally speaking, wholly conventional. 

Its figure, making allowance for some considerable irregulari- 
ties, may be called rhomboidal. Its surface is in general extreme- 
ly level, the principal irregularities deserving rather the name of 
undulations than of hills. The valleys are consequently of very in- 
considerable depth, with the exception of that which forms the 
basin of the principal lake. Its range is from north-west by west, 
to south-east by east, and the adjoining ground rises with a very 
trifling acclivity. The medium elevation of its bottom above the 
level of the sea is thirty feet. There are various glens in the 
southern part of the parish, but of small size, forming the chan- 
nels of rivulets which have their sources in wet moorland grounds. 
Their forms are exceedingly irregular, their connections at an ave- 
rage angle of 80% and their differences in point of elevation very 

Meteorology, — Under this head, little can be said either inte- 
resting or important. The average temperature of the atmosphere 
seems to differ little from that of the middle districts of the east 



coast of Scotland, at least, where the country is unsheltered by 
hills. There is generally an excess of cloudy and foggy weather 
in the end of spring, beginning of summer, and end of autumn. 
The average quantity of rain is flaoderate, although occasionally, 
in autumn, it is such, that, for a considerable period, the streams 
• are swollen beyond their ordinary limits, and the adjacent grounds 
under water. 

Climate. — ^.The climate is subject to very great vicissitudes, and 
the prevalent distempers, which are colds, inflammation of the 
throat, and other organs, (the latter more rarely), rheumatism, &c. 
unquestionably originate in the rapid alternations of heat and cold, 
drought and moisture. The parish is also sometimes, but npt very 
frequetitly, visited by the usual epidemic diseases. There is sel- 
dom a long continuance of dry weather until near the summer 
solstice, and comparatively little dew falls until that period, when 
the nights are generally clear and calm. The prevailing winds 
are easterly, except during the months of June, July, August, and 
September, when the excess of wind ranges from south-east to 
west. The most violent gales are always from north by west 

Hydrography, — The springs are all perennial, and of a tempe- 
rature not very different from the annual average of the atmosphere ; 
their magnitude is generally inconsiderable, their water pure and 
colourless, (with a few exceptions, which are powerful chalybeates ;) 
and the rocks from which they flow, excepting two or three, in- 
stances of secondary limestone, are clay-slate. The parish con- 
tains two lakes, those of Watten and Toftingall, the first extend- 
ing in length 3 miles, and in its greatest breadth about 1|, con- 
taining 840 imperial acres, with an average depth of 10 feet, and 
surrounded by gently rising ground, generally in the highest state 
*of cultivation ; the other being about 5 miles in circumference, 
with an average depth of perhaps 8 feet, and surrounded by bleak 
dismal moors. Each of these lakes contributes its stream to the 
river of Wick, the channel by which the numerous rivulets having 
their source in the moorland grounds find their way to the ocean. 
The direction of these streams is generally northerly, until they 
arrive at the river of Wick, when it becomes east by south, with a 
small velocity. They vary much in length, and the course of the 
longest does not exceed 10 miles, including 2 miles of the river 
of Wick within the boundaries of this parish. 

Geology and Mineralogy. — A very characteristic geological fea- 
ture of this parish, and a feature that belongs more or less to the 


WATTE N. 51 

county generally, is the remarkably horizontal position of the 
strata. In a great many cases, there is not the slightest dip or 
inclination perceptible ; and when this does appear, the average 
angle does not exceed 10**. The strata are almost universally in- 
tersected by minute fissures, perpendicular, and often rectilineal, 
the principal of which seem to run from east to west ; these again 
are met, but not traversed, by others, often at right angles. Tra- 
versing veins are rare, and in no instance do they exceed an inch 
in thickness. In one part of the parish, they are met with running 
generally from north-east to south-west, composed of gypsum, and 
in some instances of felspar, and met in a very irregular manner 
by minute fissures. It is in this district that the greatest inclina- 
tion is found, as well as the greatest derangement of the strata. 

The rocks are composed entirely of flagstone slate or clay-slate, 
with two orthree very trifling exceptions, consisting of limestone and 
whinstone, the former occurring perhaps not more than twice, in small 
quantity, and the latter hardly oftener. All these rocks appear to be 
of the secondary order, and although, from the limited observations 
which it has hitherto been possible to make, it cannot be deci- 
sively stated, yet there is reason to think that the clay-slate gene- 
rally is superimposed over a bed of limestone, and has an average 
thickness of from 10 to 20 feet or upwards. Few or none of the 
simple minerals seem to have been met with imbedded in rock, 
but the beds of the rivulets are frequently strewn with the usual 
debris of primitive rocks, such as small pieces of granite containing 
minute portions of garnet and schorl, fragments of mica schist, 
quartz, &c. 

Among the alluvial deposits covering the solid rocks, we may 
mention first those occurring along, the course of the streams. 
Where the water has worn out for itself a deep channel, and a 
perpendicular section of the bank is presented, these deposits are 
seen frequently to consist of alternate horizontal layers of clay, 
light-coloured towards the surface, and darker as it descends, and 
coarse gravel, composed, as that in the beds of the water-courses 
generally is, of clay-slate, porphyry, sandstone, white and red, 
quartz, mica, and occasionally bog iron-ore. These layers of 
gravel rarely exceed 3 feet in depth, those of clay often occur 
with a depth of from 8 to 16 feet, containing disseminated por- 
tions of rock of various sizes. By far the most general, indeed 
the universal alluvial deposit resting on the rocks elsewhere is clay, 
hard, tenacious, of a bluish colour, and containing in greater or less 


quantities gravel and pieces of rock imbedded. This clay occurs 
in quantity underneath a layer of peat in several places 16 feet in 
depth. Superimposed upon this sort of clay is often found another 
of a yellowish colour, less tenacious and in smaller quantity. 
Marl occurs pretty extensively in the bed of the principal lake, 
but rarely elsewhere. It does not exceed 4 or 5 feet in depth, 
and is generally covered with several feet of mud. Bog iron-ore 
occurs in various places, generally in dry, clayey moorland ground, 
but only scattered over the surface. Of peat there is a very great 
quantity, varying in depth from a few inches to 16 or 20 feet, and 
always resting on a bed of clay. It contains, as is usual, immense 
quantities of wood, oak, birch, and pine : very large pine trunks 
are frequently found, being sometimes met with even at the depth 
o{ 16 feet, with the bark and wood apparently quite entire, very 
light, and highly inflammable. The bark is generally of a silvery 
gray colour, and the wood dark-brown. Here chiefly occur horns 
of deer, and the very few other remains of animals that have been 
hitherto discovered. 

The soil is generally composed of a clayey loam, in which the 
clay preponderates, with an average depth of from one to two feet, 
and naturally wet, from the very retentive nature of the subsoil. 
Though the soil is now much improved by draining, the only other 
varieties occur in the low flats adjacent to the water courses, which 
are composed of sand and other alluvial matters, and in the moor- 
land districts where the peat predominates over the clay. Boulders 
are not unfrequent in the first mentioned soil ; they rarely exceed 
two or three feet in diameter, and are composed of granite, lime- 
stone, whinstone, sandstone, &c. but most frequently of porphyry. 

II. — Civil History. 

Land-owners. — The chief land-owners are. Sir Ralph A. An- 
struther, Bart, of Balcaskie; William Home, Esq. of Stirkoke; 
William Sinclair, Esq. of Freswick ; Sir P. M. B. Thriepland of 
Fingask; Major- General William Stewart of Strath, &c. 

Parochial Registers, — The parochial registers have been regu- 
larly kept since 1701, and are not very voluminous. 

Antiquities, — There are numerous remains of Pictish houses^ 
apparently similar in every respect to those elsewhere found, but 
in such a state of ruin that nothing material appears which has 
not been already often noticed. In one part of the parish, there 
still exist what are supposed to be the remains of a Druidical cir- 
cle, in a beautiful natural amphitheatre, covered with verdant turf, 


appearing to have been at all times destitute of wood, as the places 
of Druidical worship were, and situated in the midst of moors, once 
the site of seemingly boundless forests. There exist many tradi- 
tions in the parish relative to the incursions of the Danes, and con- 
flicts of the clans, but altogether so vague, and unauthenticated 
by positive evidence, as to be wholly unworthy of notice. 

IIL — Population. 
The only existing data from which an estimate can be formed 

of the ancient state of the population of the parish are the regis- 
ters of births and marriages. The average amount which the regis- 
ter of somewhat more than a century back gave is about 3000 
inhabitants, or nearly triple the present number. The amount 
of population by the census of 1811 was 1109; by that of 1821, 
1158; and by that of 1831, 1234. It is believed that since 1831 
the population has decreased, chiefly from the great size of some 
of the farms, the introduction of sheep, &c. There is no 
town or village in the parish. The yearly average of births 
for the last seven years is 32, of marriages, 8. There are no re- 
sident heritors in the parish. The number of proprietors of land 
of the yearly value of L. 50 and upwards is 7. The number of fa- 
milies, 241 ; of houses inhabited, 241 ; of houses uninhabited, 9; 
number of blind, 1 . 

Habits of the People^ Sfc. — In the language generally spoken, in 
the habits of the people as to cleanliness, and in the style and man- 
ner of their dress, a remarkable improvement has taken place 
within the last forty years. They appear on the whole to enjoy a 
reasonable degree of comfort and contentment, are distinguished 
for industry and economy, and their general character may 
be inferred from the fact, that crimes requiring the cognizance of 
the civil power are so rare as to be almost unheard of. 

IV. — Industry. 
Agriculture. — As nearly as can be estimated, the number of acres 

standard imperial measure in the parish, which are either cultivated 
or occasionally in tillage, is about 5500. Supposing the contents 
of the parish to be sixty square miles, or 38,400 acres, the num- 
ber of acres constantly waste, or in pasture, will be about 33,000, 
composed in many parts of deep flow-moss, and, with the ex- 
ception of some small green patches along the banks of the streams, 
generally of little use as pasture. It is unsound for sheep, of 
which stock very few indeed have of late years been kept by the 


smaller teDants, whose fiirms are, in general, adjoining to the 
above-mentioned moss ground. 

By a calculation, as accurate as circumstances admit of, it ap« 
pears that there are upwards of 5000 acres presently waste that 
might be added to the cultivated land of the parish ; and from the 
apparent quality of the soil, as well as the result of experiments 
already made, there is no doubt of their affording in time a fair 
return for the capital employed in bringing them into a productive 

The commons are all divided, or in process of division, except 
one of no great extent (Kilminster), on the east side of the parish. 

It can scarcely be said there is wood in the parish, except a few 
trees at the old garden of Achingale, which have attained a pretty 
good size. Sir Ralph Anstrutber has planted about an acre at 
Watten ; it was trenched and well drained, has been now planted 
about twelve years, and appears thriving. There seemslittle doubt of 
raising wood by the above process, if it is protected. Hard-wood 
seems to thrive. There are about 10 acres of natural copse at 
Scouthil, composed chiefly of dwarf birch, hazel, and quaking- 
ash, but its height is trifling. 

Bent of Land. — The average rent of arable land per acre is not 
easily ascertained. Enclosed land may be valued at 16s. per acre, 
and the general rent paid by tenants for their whole land, both 
arable and pasture, is at the rate of from 12s. to L.1 per arable 
acre. The pasture b often four times the extent of the arable, 
and there are some tenants not possessing more than 20 acres of 
arable and meadow ground, who have 800 acres of moor pasture. 
A cow's keep throughout the year may be taken at L. 4 on arable, 
and L.2 on waste land. Leicester sheep, of which there are 
some large flocks in this parish, pay about L. 1 a-head ; the sheep 
kept on the moors by small tenants are of little value, and may 
be reckoned at 2s. per head yearly. 

Waffes. — Farm-servants' wages are, for men L. 8 yearly, 6 J bolls 
oatmeal, 2 bolls potatoes,|one chopin of milk daily, with house and fire ; 
for boys less in proportion. Out-door women for the half-year, L. 1, 
15s., 2 bolls meal, milk and potatoes. House servants, L.1, 10s. to 
L.1, 15s. Shearers in harvest, men L.1, lOs. with a stone of 
meal weekly, a few potatoes, and a chopin of milk daily ; women, 
L.1, Is. 13 lbs. oatmeal weekly, potatoes, and half a chopin of 
milk daily, house room and fire. The above for six weeks, or the 
duration of harvest and raising the potatoes* Of ordinary la- 


bourers, men get from Is. 6d. to Is. 8(1 per day in summer, and 
from Is. 2d. to Is. 4d. in winter; women get 6d* in winter, and 
8d. in summer. Wright's work may be stated at 2s. to 2s. 6d. pef 
day ; blacksmith's the same. Mason work L. 2. per rood of 36 square 
yards. Iron, wood, and leather are about the same prices as in 
other parts of the kingdom. 

Live-Stoclu — The native breed of cattle is an inferior descrip- 
tion of the Highland. breed, generally sleek-skinned and coarsely 
made. In many instances they get to a good size, and the cows 
milk better than the pure Highlanders. There is not sufficient 
attention paid to them in general, and, of course, a considerable pro- 
portion of the cattle stock hi the parish is inferior. The ge- 
neral price of two year old cattle taken off by drovers to the south 
country markets has for the last few years, including the pre- 
sent, ranged from L. 3 to L. 8 each ; the ordinary price of cows 
from L. 5 to L. 11. 

The few sheep kept by the smaller tenants are Cheviots ; bu^ 
being ill-treated, and many of them dying of rot, they generally 
come to very little account 

These remarks are applicable only to the smaller class of farmsy 
on which the old system of husbandry still obtains, which is as 
follows : viz. on the best land, bear after manuring, followed by 
two crops of oats, and this followed in endless succession : on the 
outfield arable, two or three crops of oats, and then five or six 
rest ; a few potatoes and turnips, and a patch of sown grass. The 
number of farms, however, managed after this mode is every year 

Where a better system obtains, there are, of course, better 
stocks of cattle. A cross with the Teeswater has become very 
general, and seems likely, as agriculture improves, to supersede 
the native breeds. Leicester sheep, and Cheviot crossed with 
Leicester, are reared extensively, thrive well, and equal in weight 
any in the kingdom. Their wool gives great satisfaction in the 
southern markets. 

Improvements.'-^ K great and rapid change to the better has 
taken place in agriculture during the last twenty years. There 
are several very extensive farms in the highest state of cultivatioDy 
thoroughly drained ; some of them to a considerable extent fur- 
row-drained, and enclosed with fences consisting of dry stone dike^ i 
hedge, and ditch. On one of these, the farm of Wester Watten, 
belonging to William Home, Esq. of Scouthel, it is believed that 


th^ro are from twenty to twenty-five miles of fences of this de** 
script ion. 

It nmy be worthy of remark, that, about fifty years ago, the late - 
Sir Robert Anstruther improved the Mains of Watten most ju-« 
diciously, enclosed it with hedges and dikes, built a steadbg on 
it« and laid it out in the best style. The late Mr Home of Lang- 
well wa« the tir$t to follow his example on his property of Wester 
Wallen abov^oiHHdtioned, which, from being almost entirely waste 
and unproductive^ was converted, under the able management of 
Mr Jauxe« l\irYi2^ now mana^ger to Mr Traill of Ratter, into one 
of Iho &ue$(« a$ it certainly k one ol the largest farms in the north 
of Scv^kii^d. What hb uncle did to Wester Watten, Mr Home 
^f ^vuthe)« well known Rnt many years past as the greatest and 
iNKyf< ^Ukvetjs^ilul imi^cover in thb county, has more recently done 
U^ Kii$ (H\>|>crt\ of L^negar, also in this parish ; and Sir R. A. 
Aii$tr\itKec vMf Rilcaskie, th^ principal proprietor in the parish, 
Imk^ ^vr 5^Hiie yvsftrs past, been pursuing a most admirable system 
o«i hW exlenstw^ estates, viz. that of granting, on improving lesses, 
HHxWvwte^ted fimns, regularly subdivided, fenced, and intersected 
by ^hhI roads with all requisite encouragement to the tenantry, 
AS rx>$i>ects draining, manure, comfortable dwelling-houses, &c. 
His tenantry are amply supplied, at a low rate, with marl raised 
by dredging in a small loch adjoining the west end of the parish* 
It is the opinion of many, that, under such circumstances as 
these, the system of moderate-sized farms would eventually prove 
the most advantageous to the landlords in a pecuniary point of 
view, as it certainly would in a moral and economical, both to 
them and to the country at large, being the only means of pre- 
serving a class of men now fast wearing out, and whom the rapid 
extension of sheep-farming threatens in many districts to annihi- 
late altogether — the substantial peasantry of Scotland, the trus- 
tiest bulwark of the aristocracy, and the best defence under Pro- 
yidence of the altar, the throne, and the constitution ; a class of 
men among whom religion, morality, and good order have flou- 
rished more than among any other ; a class who are seldom ap- 
preciated as they should be, and whose services may be most 
needed when they cannot be had. 

A wonderful stimulus has been given to agriculture, and the 
rearing of improved stock in this parish, as well as others in the 
county, by the easy access to the southern markets, opened up 
by steam within these few years, for fat cattle and sheep, a great 


number of which are now annually shipped to Leith, Newcastle^ 
and London. Great advantages have also followed from the spi- 
rited exertions of the county gentlemen to improve the breed of 
cattle, sheep, horses, &c., by giving annual premiums to the ex- 
hibitors of the best stock* So successful, indeed, have these beed^ 
that this county need not now dread a competition in these mat- 
ters, open to all Scotland, as was amply shown at the Highland 
Society's meeting at Inverness in 1839. 

Produce. — Average gross amount of raw produce raised in the 
parish, as nearly as can be ascertained : — 

Oats, 6500 quarters, at L.1, Is. per quarter, . . L.6825 

Bear, 860 do. at L.I, Ss. per do. . . J204 

Potatoes, 2900 bolls at 10s. per boll, . J400 

Turnips, 300 acres, at L.7 per acre, . 2100 

.-Hay, 30,000 stones, at 6d. per stone, . . 750 

Land in pasture and miscellaneous produce, . 700 

Total yearly value of raw produ«r, . L.I 2,97 9 

V. — Parochial Economy. 

Market- Tbtrn.— There are no market or other towns in the pa- 
rish. The nearest market-town is Wick, distant eight miles. 

Means of Communication* — The means of communication en- 
joyed by the parish are, one post-oflSce, (at the bridge of Watten), 
being a sub-office to Wick, — twenty miles of turnpike roads, (along 
seven miles of which the mail passes daily, and a carrier twice a- 
week), and various bridges, all of inconsiderable size, excepting two 
at Watten and Dunn. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The parish church is very inconveniently 
situated, being distant from the north-east extremity of the parish 
only one mile, and nearly nine miles from the south-west. The 
date of its erection is unknown. It appears from the session re- 
cords to have been repaired in 1714. Since that period, it has 
received several repairs, and was propped with wooden supports 
two years ago. It is in a very bad state. It may accommodate 
from 700 to 800 persons, and the sittings are all free. 1'he 
manse was built in 1778. There is a glebe of 24 acres, worth 
about i5s. per acre, and the amount of stipend is 14 chalders^ 
half meal and half barley, with L. 10 for communion elements. 
There is no Government church. Dissenting, Seceding, Episcopa- 
lian, or Roman Catholic chapel in the parish. There is one mis- 
sionary in the Highland part of it, supported partly by the Royal 
Bounty Committee, and partly by the people ; also, a cate- 
chist. The number of families attending the Established ChurcK 


is Dearly equal to the number of families in the parish^ and the 
church is generally full. The average number of communicants is 
about 120. There is one society in the parish — a Bible, Jewish, 
and Missionary Society, The average yearly collections for reli- 
gious purposes are about L. 25, and for charitable L. 20* 

EducaiiorL — The number of schools in the parish is 8^ of which 
one is parochial, one endowed by the Greneral Assembly's Educa- 
tion CommitteiB, and one supported by fees. The parochial 
schoolmaster has the maximum salary of L. 84. He is obliged 
from age to have an assistant, who receives the fees, averaging 
Li 12, and occasional donations from the heritors. The general 
expense of education is, for reading. Is. 6d. or 2s. ; writing and 
arithmetic, 6d. each additional per quarter, Latin, 5s. Poor 
children are taught gratis at the parochial' and General Assem- 
bly's schools. There are no children upwards of six years of age 
who are not in course of learning reading, writing, and arith- 
metic Some aged persons there are, who cannot read, but the 
number of these is exceedingly small. The people universally 
are much alive to the benefits of education, and two additional 
schools are required which they are unable regularly to maintain. 

A parochial library has been established this year, which al« 
ready possesses upwards of 300 volumes ; there are also two Sab- 
bath schools very efficiently taught, and numerously attended. 

Friendly Society. — Under this head there is nothing to parti- 
cularize excepting a Friendly Society instituted in 1819, for the 
purpose of aiding its members when sick, and their widows after 
their decease. It is sufficiently desirable in this point of view, 
but in other respects its advantages are not very obvious. 

Poor and Parochial Funds, — The average of persons receiving 
parochial aid is 35, and the average sum given to each 15s. per 
annum. The average sum at the disposal of the kirk-session for 
all parochial purposes, is about L. 34, of which L. 20 arise from 
church collections, the remainder being the interest of legacies, 
and sums collected many years ago by fines, and economy in the 
distribution of the funds. There is no other regular mode of pro- 
curing funds for the poor. There are none unemployed who are 
able and willing to work, and there are none so destitute as not to 
have a cottage, plenty of fuel, and a spot of ground for cabbages 
and potatoes. 

Fairs. — ITie following are held in the parish, for the sale of 
horses, cattle, sheep, and other stock, for hiring servants, and 


other purposes of markets generally. 1. Roodsmass, on the first 
Tuesday of May, (old style) ; 2. Roodsmass, on the third Tues- 
day of September, O. S. ; di Wester Market, on the last Tue8<« 
day of October; 4. Magnusmass, on the last Tuesday of De- 
cember. Also three cattl^trysts, on the first Mondays of July, 
August, and September, on the Hill of Backless. 

/nn^.— There are 4 of these, being three more than the public 
accommodation requires. They receive almost no countenance 
from the people of the parish. 

r FueL — The fuel almost universally used is peat or turf, pro- 
cured from the peat-bogs, with which the parish abounds, at an 
expense of about 6d. per cart load, exclusive of carriage. 

October 1840. 






Name."— The word Olrich (or Olrig), is of Norwegian deri- 
vation, and may be interpreted ^^ the son of Erick :" it was ap- 
plied to this parish in allusion to a settlement made by soma 
chief of that name on. this part of the coast, about the end of 
the eighth or the beginning of the ninth century, when an inva* 
sion of this northern part of the kingdom is supposed to have taken 

Extent — The length of the parish from north-west to south-east 
is 5 miles, its medium breadth 3 miles: and it contains 15^ 
square miles, or about 10,000 imperial acres. It is bounded on the 
west, east, and south by the parishes of Thurso, Dunnet, and 
Bower, — and the sea is the boundary on the north. 

Soil and Produce. — The soil throughout the parish may 
be considered good ; and as improvements in agriculture are car- 
ried on, on the most approved plans, perhaps there is not a parish 
in the north of Scotland where better crops of all kinds of useful 
produce are raised. There is abundance of marl in the parish, 


which, along with sand aild sea*weed, afford every facility in the 
way of manure. The common of Hilliclay being now divided 
and enclosed by the respective proprietors, and fast yielding to 
cultivation, very little of the parish can be considered as unfit for 
husbandry, and what is not already under cultivation, affords ex-^ 
cellent pasture for young cattle and sheep, — of the latter of which 
there is a large increase of late years, and that of the best de- 

Minerals^ Sfc. — Limestone and freestone, slates and flags abound 
in the parish* 

In the raising of stone for pavement much has been done for 
some years back. The finest quality of this is found on the pro- 
perty of Mr Traill of Ratter, the stratification being so very regu- 
lar and plane, that it answers admirably for streets, without any 
surface dressing. The layers are from three-quarters of an inch 
to five inches thick and upwards in the quarry ; the colour of the 
stone from a smoke-gray to blue. This stone is very hard, and 
exceedingly strong and durable. Some of the oldest houses in 
Caithness are roofed with it, and it has been employed with 
advantage for granary floors, being laid on joists at the ordinary 
distance, in the upper as well as low flats of buildings. The 
inhabitants of London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and 
other towns are now reaping the benefit of pavement exported 
from this parish. At Castlehill, machinery is employed in 
sawing the edges and polishing the surface of the stone, which 
is now used in this prepared form for lobby floors, tables, hearth- 
stones, and mantel-pieces, and other purposes within doors. Up- 
wards of 100 labourers are constantly eniployed, and numerous 
cargoes of this useful commodity are exported every season ; the 
proprietor having erected a neat and commodious harbour for 
his own use, has now the pleasure and advantage of seeing his 
own and other vessels coming in and going out in safety in the 
immediate neighbourhood of his mansion-house, — the tonnage re- 
quired being from 3000 to 4000, and the annual shipment of pave- 
ment alone being from 300,000 to 400,000 square feet. 

On the estates of Olrig and Murkle, there are also quarries of 
slate and flag of good quality. 

The line of sea coast belonging to this parish is not more than 
two miles from east to west. At the extremities of this line are 
the bays of Castlehill and Murkle, both abounding with fish of 
every kind peculiar to the coast, soughl after (with the exception 



of the salmon-fishing, lei to a respectable tenant), now only by thp 
labourers as a recreation from other work, and for the use of their 

Allusion has been already made to the harbour at Castlehill ; 
and it is much to be regretted that no steps have been taken for 
having a harbour also erected in the bay of Murkle, which is so 
well adapted for the purpose, and which would afibrd shelter to 
vessels in distress, or retarded in their progress by contrary winds, 
being almost naturally locked in from the effects of that dangerous 
neighbour, the Pentland Frith, and there being abundance of water 
at all times of tide. 

Lakes. — The only lake, that of Durran, mentioned in the for- 
mer Statistical Account, was drained many years ago, and has 
amply rewarded the proprietors, — the surface of water being now 
exchanged for inexhaustible pits of marl and rich meadow pas- 

II. — Civil History. 
Parochial Registers. — The earliest date of these is 1700, since 

which period the record of session, including births and marriages, 

has been regularly kept ; but no record of deaths seems to have 

been kept in this parish at any period. 

Antiquities, — Torfaeus mentions a nunnery, the site of which is 
obviously indicated by the burn of Closters (cloisters), running 
through the farm of Redlands, on the estate of Murkle, and not 
far from a green hillock resembling the Pictish cairns, which 
abound in the county, and of which there are several in this pa- 

On the top of the hill of Olrick, on the southern boundary of the 
parish, there are evident remains of a watch-tower, which, in for- 
mer tfmes, must have been of no little importance, from the ex- 
tensive view it commands of the coast and the country round. 
From this spot the bays of Sandside, Scrabster, Dunnet, Freswick, 
and Reiss, Dunnet-head, the hills of Canisbay and Noss-head, all 
in this county, together with some of the islands of Orkney, and 
also some of the mountainous parts of Sutherland, Moray, Banff, 
and Aberdeen shires are visible, — affording one of the most exten- 
sive and finest views to be found in this northern part of the country. 

On the boundary of the parish on the east, towards Dunnet, 
it is said there existed a church, the position of which is as- 
certained by the name of St Coomb's Kirk (perhaps in honour 
of St Columba), being still given to the spot; and there is a 
farther tradition, that this church and the adjoining manse^ su^- 


posed to have been the parish church and manse x)f the united pa- 
rishes of Dunnet and Olrick, were, in the night season, suddenly 
overwhelmed with sand during the prevalence of a storm, the 'mi- 
nister and his family effecting their escape with difficulty by the 
roof; and it is probable that it was at this period thut the adjoin- 
ing lands of the property of Tain shared the same fete. The dis- 
trict is now known by the name of the Links of Old Tain. 

The only other place in the parish worthy of note is Murkle, 
on the western boundary ; which name is believed to have been ori- 
ginally Mort Hill, or the field of death, applied in allusion to a bat- 
tle fought between the Danes and natives, in which thelatter were 
victorious. It is said that the Scottish chie^ on seeing a lai^ hol- 
low at the head of Murkle Bay filled with the enemy, called out to 
his followers, ^^ clear the den,'' which was responded to with such 
destruction of the invaders, that the place got the name of Clear 
Den, or Clairden, which it bears to this day. 

Land'Otoners. — The only two residing heritors are, James Traill, 
Esq. of Ratter, and James Smith,^ Esq. of Olrig, who have done 
much for the encouragement and comfort of their numerous te- 
nantry. The other non-residing heritors are, the Earl of Caith- 
ness ; Sir John Gordon Sinclair, Bart. ; and the Trustees of the 
late George Miller, Esq., who bequeathed the small property of 
Swarclet for the benefit of the poor of the parish of Thurso. 

III. — Population. 

By Dr Webster's Report in 1755, - 875 souls. 

By Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account in 1792, 1001 

By GoTemment census in 1821, • • 1093 

By Do. Do. 1831, . . 1146 

And by a census taken up by the present parish minister in 
1835, in order accurately to meet some Government queries, the 
population was found to amount to 1352 souls, composed chiefly 
of farmers, farm-serrants, and labourers. This increase is to be 
attributed to the erection and prosperity of the village of Castle* 
town, (the only one in the parish,) on the property of James Traill, 
Esq. of Ratter, and to the employment and liberal wages through- 
out the year afforded by him to numerous workmen in raising and 
preparing pavement for the southern markets. The number of 
inhabitants in this village, which is rising in importance, from the 
granting of perpetual feus, and several handsome houses being built 
in consequence, may be computed at 320 souls. 

Tlie average of marriages for the last seven years is • 10 

births, do. do. - .32 

deaths, do. do. • 17 
The latter average raised from the effects of small-poz. 

OLllICK. 63 

Id their general character, the people may be stated to be so- 
ber, industrious, inteltigent, and attentive to the outward ordi- 
nances of religion. 

IV. — Industry. 

Agriculture^ Sfc. — The extent of the parish being about .10,000 
acres, 6000 may be reported as cultivated, and the remainder^ 
with the exception of about 500 acres of links and moss, is ca- 
pable of cultivation. 

There are 20 acres under wood on the estates of Castlehill and 
Olrig. The oldest was planted by the present proprietor, James 
Traill, Esq. about fifty years ago, consisting principally of ash, 
plane, elm, oak, mountain-ash, and larch. Some of the trees have 
grown as high as 50 feet The ash seems to thrive the best 
Fir does not succeed. 

Bent. — The rent of arable land varies much, depending in a 
great measure on proximity to the sea-coast Near the sea it may 
be stated at from L. I to L. 1, 5s« per acre; in the interior from 
12s. to 15s. is near the average. The rate of grazing a cow is 
L.2 in summer, and L.1, 10s. for wintering. Keep of a Leicester 
sheep is worth from 15s. to 20s. during the year. 

fFo^e^.^- Farm-servants' wages are, for men, from L.6 to L.8 
in money per annum, with 6^ bolls meal, 2 bolls potatoes, house- 
room, fire, and a chopin of milk daily. Boys less in proportion* 
Out-door women get L.d, 4 bolls of meal, with lodgings, fire, 
milk, and potatoes. House female servants L.d to L.3, 10s. 
yearly. Harvest labourers are engaged for eight weeks. Men 
get L. 1, 10s., and one boll meal, with a chopin of milk daily, and 
a few potatoes; women L.1, and half a boll meal for the harvest, 
with potatoes and a mutchkin of milk daily. Tlie price of la- 
bour has risen considerably within the last two years, from the 
great demand for hands at the stone-works, making roads, fur- 
row-draining, enclosing, &c. and may be stated for common la- 
bourers Is. 6d. per day in winter, and Is. lOd. in summer. Wo- 
men get now pretty generally .6d. a day for turnip-hoeiqg, and 6d. 
in winter for barn-work, pulling turnips, &c« Wrights, masons, 
and blacksmiths get about 2s. 6d. per day. Mason-work of ordi- 
nary wall height and girth measure is done for L.2 per rood of 36 
square yards. Blacksmiths get L.2, 10s. per annum for each pair 
of horses. They uphold the horses' shoes, iron-work of ploughs 
and carts. Saddlers get from L. 1 to L. 1, 5s. for upholding the 
harness of each pair of horses during the year. 


Breeds of Live-stock. — The common breed of cattle among the 
proprietors and larger tenants is a cross with the Highland and 
Teeswater, which Mr Traill introduced some years ago. They 
have answered very well, and are a vast improvement compared 
with the old stock. The smaller tenants still keep the old breed, 
an inferior description of highlanders. 

The breed of sheep is the Leicester, which was also introduced 
by Mr Traill eight years ago : it has succeeded beyond expecta- 
tion, both as to weight and the quality of the wool. There are 
now about 1500 sheep of this kind in the parish ; and the num- 
ber is yearly increasing. 

Husbandry. — The husbandry of the parish is of all kinds, from 
the best modern systems to the most antiquated. On the improv- 
ed farms the five and six shift courses are followed. Turnips eat 
off with sheep, and business managed much the same as in the 
southern part of the kingdom. Oa the lands occupied by the 
smaller tenantry (they occupy more than one-half of the parish,) 
the system is continual cropping, or nearly so, viz. bear and oats 
alternately. Numbers are beginning to sow a few turnips and 
grass-seeds ; but there is scarcely as yet any regular rotation in- 
troduced. However, with the great command the parish has of 
manure, viz. marl, sea -weed, and shell-sand, vast quantities of bear 
and oats are raised of good quality — Angus oats generally weigh- 
ing from 40 lb. to 42 lb. per bushel, and bear from 48 lb. to 52 
.lb. A part of the parish ( Murkle) is remarkable for producing 
black oats. They degenerate everywhere else by repeated sowing 
except here ; the consequence of which is, that the whole coun- 
ty take a change of seed of their oats from Murkle. 

The mode of reclaiming waste lands is, — first enclose with ditch 
and thorn hedge, protected with flagsseton edge ; then drain out the 
springs with three feet or four feet drains as required ; plough in and 
allow it to lie a year or more ; lay on marl or shell sand at the rate 
of twenty to twenty-five loads per acre ; then cross plough and 
work it dQwn for turnips with dung, or bone-dust, or both ; feed 
the turnips off with sheep ; then oats, or bear and grass seeds ; 
then pasture with sheep for a few years ; and the land is general- 
ly afterwards fit for any rotation. The quality of the soil being 
good, considerable progress is made and making in thus reclaim- 
ing waste lands. Furrow draining has also been introduced on Mr 
Traill's estate. The effect is wonderful, and the practice will, 
though expensive, in a few years, be common. 


The principal tenants have in general leases of from fourteen to 
twenty-one years, with stipulations as to propping. The small occu« 
piers are at willf and are wearing out^ — the tendency of the present 
system of improvement being to throw the whole lands into large 

Where the farms are large the steadings are substantial and com- 
modious ; slates, flags, and building stones of the best quality be- 
ing abundant ; the fences are also very good, either stone walls or 
hedges protected with flags. On the small ferms the houses are al- 
most wholly built with feal covered ^th divots, — chimneys few 
in number — and fences of a very indifferent description. 

The principal improvements made in the parish have been 
done by James Traill, Esq. of Ratter, and James Smith, Esq. 
of Olrig. The other proprietors are non-resident, and do not 
seem to give much attention to their estates. Mr Traill may well 
be called the author of all improvements in the county ; which a 
single view of his property in this parish, after surveying Caithness, 
will sufficiently testify, either as regards culture, plantations, build- 
ings, harbours, roads, live-stock, or crops ; indeed, what he has ac- 
complished could scarcely be credited as being the work of one in- 
dividual, and is and will be a great example to Caithness proprie- 
tors in all time coming. 

The obstacles to improvements are the state of occupancy by 
small tenants, and the want of capital. 

The rental of the parish is about L. 4000 a year ; L. 50,000 
laid out on buildings, enclosures, roads, and drains, would not do 
more than put the parish into a fair state of cultivation. It is, 
therefore, easily seen that its final improvement must be a work of 
time. The facilities of procuring manure ; the excellent materi- 
als for buildings, enclosures, and drains, got from the refuse of the 
flag quarries, are its great advantages, and will ultimately produce 
great results. The surface is capable of producing more than 
double of what it does at present ; and as a matter of course will 
pay double rent ; there is, therefore, little doubt, that ere long, in 
consequence of easy access to the southern markets by the aid of 
steam-vessels, that capital will find its way to call out the dormant 
and neglected resources of this and every other parish in the coun- 
ty of Caithness. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
The parish is well accommodated with roads. The county 
line, from Thurso to Wick, passes through it, and there is no 


66 CA1THNES8-SH1UE. , 

deficiency of cross-roads. There is a daily post between Castle- 
town and Thurso ; and a. regular carrier to Wick. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The present church, conveniently situate4 
for the parish, seems to have been built in 1633, and though fre- 
quently repaired, has never had any addition made to it It has 
never been divided^ nor seated at the expense of the heritors. It 
affords accommodation for only 403 sitters, at 18 inches; and this 
being far below what the increasing population require of seat- 
room, the heritors have lately adopted a very handsome plan 
by Mr David Cousin, architect in Edinburgh, agreeable to which 
a new church is now building, which .will afford the requisite ac- 
commodation, and be a great ornament to the village of Castle- 
town, at the east end of which it is situated. The maqse was built 
about fifty years ago, and along with the offices underwent consider- 
able repairs in 1825. There is a glebe attached to it of 8 Scotch 
acres, which may be valued at L. 10. The amount of stipend is 
14 chalders, half barley and half oatmeal, with L. 8, 6s. dd. for 
communion elements. The number of communicants is 120. 
There is no Dissenting place of worship in the parish ; the num- 
ber of Dissenters is under 100 ; and these belong to the Original 
Seceders, Independents, and Baptists, the great majority of whom 
readily signed a late petition to the Legislature in behalf of the ex- 
tension and endowment of the Established Church. 

Education, — There are one parochial and four other schools in 
the parish. About one* eighth of the population may be comput- 
ed as attending school. 

The salary of the parish teacher is the maximum. All the 
usual branches of a classical and commercial education are 
taught. The fees are moderate, in no case exceeding 7s. per 
quarter, whatsoever branches are taught. The other teachers 
are upon their own adventure. There is not a person in the pa- 
rish above five years of age but who can read, and, with few ex- 
ceptions, also write. The children of such as are in indigent 
circumstances are educated gratuitously. There is a Sabbath 
school, where the youth of both sexes are carefully instructed in 
the principles of the Christian religion. 

Library. — There is a parish library consisting of some hun- 
dred volumes of useful books, of a miscellaneous and religious 

Friendly Societies. — Of these there are three in the parish, from 



whicb much benefit has been derived by the aged and infirm, as 
well as by widows and orphans. Allowances are also made for de- 
fraying the funeral expenses of members and their widows. The 
Castletown Society alone, since its commencement in 1797, has 
distributed nearly L. 4000. These Societies have prevented many 
from being on the poor's roll. 

Poor and Parochial Funds. — The average number of persons 
receiving parochial aid is 35, whose circumstances are taken into 
due consideration without any special or fixed sum being allotted. 
There is a mortification of L. 100, left by the late Dr Oswald of 
Scotstown, the interest of which, along with L. 25 of collections, 
and some seat-rents in the church, under the direction of the ses- 
sion, placed at their disposal last year L. 36, 12s. 4d. There is 
no assessment of the heritors. Particular care is taken in the ad- 
mission of parties on the poor roll — ^vagrancy is discouraged — no 
pauper certificate for begging has been granted during the last 
fifteen years — and in various cases, the heritors and parishioners 
have subscribed liberally, in order to prevent families from be- 
coming a permanent burden upon the parish. 

Fairs. — There are three annual fairs held in the parish, in 
March, June, and November, for the sale and purchase of cattle. 

Inns, — There are two in the parish, which are well kept, but 
one would be fully sufficient for the accommodation required by 

Fuel, — Moss is not very abundant in this parish ; but there is 
now an abundant supply of English coal to be had at the village 
of Castletown : it is conveyed in vessels that are constantly ar- 
riving at Castlehill for cargoes of pavement. 

October 1840. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 

Name. — The ancient name of this parish was St Fergus and 
St Thomas. It had this name because the pari^sh of St Fergus 
was united to that of St Thomas's soon after or about the time of 
the Reformation. It is very probable that the tract of country 
now known by the name of the parish of Halkirk, or the united 
parishes of Halkirk and Skinnet, contained at some remote period 
more than the two parishes above alluded to : the number of bury- 
ing grounds, and the ruins of several places of worship, afford a 
presumptive proof of this. Some of these, however, are said to 
have been chapelries in the times of Popery. The etymology of 
the modern name, Halkirk, is involved in the greatest obscurity, 
and, as there is no tradition regarding it, the conjectures of ima- 
gination are the only sources from which any thing probable can 
be drawn. 

Extent^ Sfc, — The very irregular figure of the parish makes it 
diflScult to ascertain its real extent. The extreme length is 24 
miles, the breadth varies from 12 to 3 miles. From these const- 
derationsy we may suppose that the parish contains about 90 or 
92 square miles. The parish is bounded on the north by the pa- 
rish of Thurso ; on the north-east and east by the parishes of Bow- 
er and Watten ; on the south and south-west by the parishes of 
Latheron, Kildonan, and Reay ; on the west by Dorrory, a detach- 
ed part of the parish of Thurso ; and on the north- west by the pa- 
rish of Reay. 

Topographical Appearances. — There is neither hill nor moun- 
tain remarkable for height in the parish, except the Spittal hill, 
partly in this parish and partly in the parish of Watten, and about 
three miles south-east from the church of Halkirk. The elevation of 
this hill above the level of the sea is not known ; its height, how- 


•ever, is such that the greater part of the county may be seen fronti 
Its summit. From time immemorial till within the last seven or 
eight years, it was customary to have an annual market on the very 
top of this hill. From the name of the market, the Jamesmas^ 
it is evident that it had its origin during the prevalence of Popery 
in Scotland. This market is now held in a place equally centrical 
and far easier of access, and will be afterwards mentioned under 
another head. 

Hydrography. — There is a considerable number of lakes in the 
parish, from twenty-two to twenty-four, including small and great 
The loch of Calder is about d^ miles in length, and from one 
mile to half a mile in breadth. The next in magnitude is Loch- 
more, which differs very little in size from the other. Both these 
lochs have a very pleasing effect on the scenery. In travel- 
ling towards either of them a person does not see them till 
they burst at once on his view, and they form a striking and a 
lively contrast to the moss and the heath with which they 
are surrounded. There are two rivers which pass through the 
parish. By the inhabitants of this parish, the principal of 
these rivers is called the river of Halkirk, but at Thurso, near 
which it enters the sea, it is called the river of Thurso. The 
source of this river is Alltan na cat^ or Cat'sbrook, which is about 
eight miles south-west from Lochmore and in Sutherlandshire. 
Though this brook is considered the source of the river, there are 
several lakes, upwards of twenty, which pour their waters into the 
river. Some of these lakes are in this parish, and some in the 
mountains which divide this county from Sutherlandshire. As 
this river flows through a wide extent of country it receives into 
its channel and discharges into the sea a great quantity of water. 
After much rain or a rapid thaw it overflows its banks, and, du- 
ring the harvest months, has at times done great damage to grass 
and other crops which lie within its range. Its course is nearly 
through the centre of the parish; and, taking into calculation its 
various windings, its length from the source to its junction with 
the sea is from 40 to 50 miles. Th^ other river, that of Forssy, 
divides this parish from Reay on the north-west, and joins the sea at 
Forss, in the parish of Thurso. This river, after great falls of rain, 
comes down in torrents, and does much injury to corn and grass in 
low situations near its course. It is from 15 to 20 miles in 
length. Trout and salmon are taken in both the rivers, and 
trout of various kinds in the lakes. — There are two springs in the 


parish which may be noticed. Tobair Acraig, the well of Halkirk, 
about a mile south-east from the church, is believed to be medi* 
dual, and partakes of the nature of chalybeate waters^i The other 
is at the north-west end of the Loch of Calder^ and is belieyed by 
the inhabitants in its vicinity to be useful for the cure of diseases. 
It is of the same nature with the one just mentioned. It may be 
observed that marl is found in the Loch of Calder, and that, a 
year or two ago, exertions were made, which are still persevered ipi 
to raise it by meatis of a boat having niachinery attached for the 
purpose. Another loch, that of Leurary, the whple bottom of 
which is a bed of marl, was drained a number of years ago, and 
the loch being now di7, this substance is easily obtained, and is 
found very useful for agricultural purposes. 

II. — Civil History. 
Land'Oumers. — The land-own^rs in this parish are. Sir Greorge 

Sinclair of Ulbster, Bart. M. P. for the county ; Lord Duffus ; 

Sir Patrick M. fi. Thriepland of Fingask and TofUngal, Bart. ; 

James Sinclair, Esq. of Forss ; Charles S. Quthrie, Esq. of Scots 

Calder; Donald Home, Esq. of Langwell ; David Henderson, Esq. 

of Westerdale ; James Smith, Esq. of Olrig ; and Adam Duff, Esq. 

of Banniskirk. None of these except Mr Henderson of Wester- 

dale reside in the parish. 

Parochial Registers. — The old registers of this parish were de*- 
stroyed many years ago by some ill disposed persons. The present 
ones commence with the year 1790. 

Antiquities. — One of the relics of antiquity in this parish is the 
Castle of Brawl. It is situated on the north bank of the river 
Thurso, which flows through the middle of a valley, long and broad, 
commencing to form at the sea, and extending fully twelve miles 
into the interior. A place equidistant from both the extremities 
of this valley, and at which there is a peculiar winding in the 
course of the river, attractive and pleasing to the eye, is the spot 
chosen for this once strong and well forti&ed, but now ruined 
haunt of ancient heroes. Under the general designation, Castle 
of Brawl, are comprehended two distinct buildings, belonging to 
different eras of architecture. The most ancient of these is a 
tower 39 by 86 feet ; and there still remain 35 feet of the height. 
The walls are 9 feet thick ; and in the centre of the east wall is 
formed a stone stair leading to the very top of the building. In 
the walls there are several recesses 2 feet and 2 feet 8 inches in 
breadth, which may contain two or three persons in a standing po- 


sitioD. These recesses diminish gradually both in height and 
breadth towards the outside of the wall^ and each of them ends in 
a narrow opening, which appears to have admitted all the light 
which found an entrance to this gloomy abode of the heroes of 
battle and of rapine. These openings seem also to have been ca)* 
culated as convenient positions from which those within the castle 
could shoot at such of their foes as dared attack them in this fkst^ 
ness, which, before the invention of gunpowder, must have been of 
considerable strength* There are other recesses in the walls, not 
unlike small rooms, 5, 6, 7, and 8 feet long, by 3, 4, and 5 broad, 
and 6^9 7, and 8 feet high. On the ground floor in the north 
side there is a strongly built dismal hole, 10 or 12 feet by 4^, and 
about the same height with those already mentioned. It is cover* 
ed with massy stones, and must from its appearance have been a 
place either of concealment or of imprisonment The whole su* 
perstructiire is of a hard durable species of stone found in the vi«> 
cinity. On the north-»west side of the tower there is a fosse, 6 feet 
deep, and about 20 broad, which protected it on that side, and the 
river afforded it some defence on the other. The other building in 
ruins, or rather the commencement of a more spacious and com« 
modious castle, projected on a more elegant plan, belongs to a 
more improved era of architecture, and is of a modern date com* 
pared to the tower. The front height of this ruin varies from 12 
to 15 feet. The building is erected on a bank elevated 6 or 7 
feet above the bed of the river, and looks towards the east, on 
which side, and within a very short distance thereof, the river flows 
with a murmuring hum over a rough stony channel. AH that 
seems to have been built of this well projected and pleasantly si- 
tuated castle is the ground floor, 100 feet in length by 50 in 
breadth, divided into six vaults, four of which have two port-holes 
in each ; and there is one in each end of a passage which runs be- 
twixt the end and the centre vaults. The diameter of these port- 
holes varies from 3^ to 4^ inches. Each vault has a door com- 
municating with the passage just mentioned, and to each end of 
which there is a stair descending from the back of the building. 
The dimensions of these vaults are 16 and 17 feet square, by 12 
in height Some of them have small windows 1^ feet by 1 foot 
All the light admitted into two of them enters through a very nar- 
row opening above the port-holes. By whom and at what period 
the tower was built and inhabited, and by whom the more modem 
building was commenced and so far carried on, are questions not 


easily soWed. Some say that the former was inhabited by a su(> 
cession of the Bishops of Caithness and Sutherland, and that the 
latter, so far as it was finished, was the work of one of these bi- 
shops The only foundation for this lame tradition is a story, quite 
a true one, that one of the bishops who occupied the see was 
burnt by some lawless miscreants in his castle of Halkirk. There 
is no reason for confounding Halkirk with Brawl, as they are on 
opposite sides of the river. The place where the horrid de^ was 
perpetrated was a residence which the bishops had on the Hal- 
kirk bank of the river, opposite the Castle of Brawl. There is 
no vestige of a ruin to point out where the bishop's residence 
stood. It is probable, however, it was in a field to the north-east 
•of the present manse, where the parochial ministers had their re- 
sidence till the present house was built. The total removal <^ 
every stone of this building has obliterated the memory of its ex- 
istence. This has been the means of ascribing to the bishops the 
ruins which remain ; it has been the means of placing them in a 
tower over which they never had any control; and of fathering 
on their invention and power a project which never owed its form 
or its existence either to their wealth or to their contrivance. The 
more probable opinion is, that the Castle of Brawl was a residence 
of the Harolds and Sinclairs, who were Earls of Caithness, the 
former at a very early period, and the latter ever since the Ha- 
rolds lost the title. At Brawl there is an extensive garden, by 
far the most ancient in the county, belonging to the family of Ulb- 
ster, which, notwithstanding its northern latitude, and its being ra- 
ther neglected, produces considerable quantities of fruit, and in 
and around it stand chestnut, ash, and elm trees, of good size 
both in height and circumference. 

There was also a castle on the rugged crag of Dirlot, said to 
have been inhabited by a bold and daring freebooter of the name 
of Sutherland, a near relation of the Dunrobin Sutherlands, whose 
lands of Dylrid and Cattak were forfeited for treason, and given 
to M*Kay of Strathnaver by charter, dated at Inverness, 4th 
November 1489. The rock of Dirlot is said to have been sur- 
rounded at one time by the river, and accessible only by a draw- 
bridge. The nature of the ground gives some countenance to 
this tradition ; but now the river flows entirely on one side of the 
crag, on whose summit the gray remains of the castle are to be 
seen. There was also a place of defence, and of no small im- 
portance, at the north corner of Lochmore, where the river issues 


from that lake. There was another at the east end of the Loch 
of Calder. These relics of towers, castles, and forts, are the only 
monuments remaining of the wealth and the power of the chief- 
tains of days that are gone ; these are the only remnants of their 
possessions ; the only indications of their greatness. The fame 
of their possessors is not recorded in story : if the bard ever sung 
of their valour ; if tradition for a while spoke of their achievements 
in war, or commended their heroism in the day of battle, the 
song of the one is no longer sung in the hall, and the tongue of 
the other is for ever silent. If a little green hill, or three gray 
stones did for years point out the tomb of their rest, they are now 
thoughtlessly trodden upon by a race to whom their names and 
their deeds are alike unknown. If a rude unsculptured pillar 
marked out the spot or the field where they fell, it stands on a 
lonely moor, or the side of a barren hill, without a name engraved 
either by tool or tradition. 

There are also some remains of ecclesiastical antiquity. Of 
these are the relics of St Thomas's Chapel at Skinnet Here 
was left to stand the sacred chair of St Thomas, of exquisite 
workmanship in stone, an object of some curiosity ; it may be of 
superstitious veneration, till broken down and used in building a 
fence. Within the walls of the chapel which still remain, as well 
as in the ground around, a few continue to bury their dead. There 
was another of these chapels at Banniskirk, of which there are no 
remains ; its stones have been removed, and the silent mansions 
of the dead, by which it was surrounded, have been ploughed up, 
and added to an adjoining field ! 

A third of these ruined chapels, St Magnus, said to have been 
founded by the same individual who was the originator and the 
bene&ctor uf the Kirkwall Cathedral, is at a place called Spittal. 
It appears to have been 60 feet by 20, and the walls, though in a 
dilapidated condition, have been left to decay under the slow 
but sure process of the blasting elements, and the demolishing 
progress of time ; and no views of expediency have induced the 
proprietor of the lands on which it is built to increase his re- 
venues by demolition and sacrilege ; nor has the occupant of the 
farm, in the centre of which it stands, so for forgotten the reve- 
rence due to the mighty dead, as to enlarge his fields by disturb- 
ing their repose, scattering their ashes, and exposing their bones 
to the bleaching influence of sun and of rain. Here was the ce- 
metery of the clan Gunn, at one time a powerful and a warlike 


race, who inhabited the mountainous parts of this cotiiity, as well 
as the Kildonan district of the Sutherland county, and who, not- 
withstanding the high mountains, the many mosses and morasses 
which intervene to render the journey tedious and laborious, are 
said to have carried their dead, especially the remains of their 
chiefs and principal men, from the glens of the Crask and Knock- 
finn, in order to be interred in the Chapel of SpittaL There was, 
besides, the Chapel of St Peter at Olgnimore, that of St Columba 
at Dirlot, and that of St Ciran in Strathm6re« These last bear 
the names of the early propagators of Christianity in Scotland ; 
but whether built in their time, or by others in honour of them 
after their day, is a subject that must for ever remain in doubt. 
If the pure doctrines of Christianity were for a time declared in 
these ancient places of worship, it is certain, that during the dark 
ages they were the temples of idols and their superstitious wor- 
shippers. In proof of this, it is traditionally reported, that a band 
of marauders made the image of St Ciran the butt of their arrows, 
and thus for their own amusement destroyed the last of the dumb 
idols worshipped in this part of the country. Of the Clachans of 
Gerston and Achardale, little remains except the name, and the 
jcertainty that each of them contains the ashes of the dead. It is 
evident from this enumeration of ruined chapels, whatever was 
the quality of the instruction given, that the people had more 
easy access to the public worship than at present Whatever su- 
perior advantages the present generation enjoy compared to those 
that are gone, it appears that the latter were more zealous in sup- 
porting a false religion than the former are in supporting and at- 
tending the pure doctrines of the Gospel. 

III. — Population. 
Were we to be guided by the former Statistical Account, we 
would be led to think that the population was greater at the time 
it was written than at present There cannot, however, be the 
least ground for such an opinion, as the Government census shows 
an increase at each of the periods it was taken. No part of the 
parish has been depopulated, and, in moors where ten years ago 
there was no house, a considerable number of dwellings is now 
built The occupiers improve as much of the waste ground as 
their circumstances enable them. The gradual increase of the 
population is to be attributed to the cultivation of waste ground, — 
the improvement of which is carried on by those poor and indus- 
trious individuals who build houses in moors, and by farmers who 

HALK1R{C. 75 

employ labourers to cultivate wastes adjacent to the arable land 
they occupy. Thus there is a demand for labour, and the soil 
yields a produce su£Scient to remunerate the farmer for the capi- 
tal he may have laid out. 

In 1881 the popuktion w»t 2847, ti'z. 1822 males ; 1525 fetnalet. 
In 1836, - 3065 

of whom about 1180 were under 15 yean of age, 

875 were between 15 and 30 years, 
645 - 30 and 50 

294 - 50 and 70 

91 were upwards of 70 years* 

There is a population of 1 70 in the village of Halkirk, and the 
rest spread over the extent of the parish. The average number 
of marriages is 18 in the year, and of baptisms, 74. There is no 
register of deaths kept. 

Language. — The Gaelic language and the Scotsr dialect of 
English are spoken in the parish. A considerable majority of the 
old people speak the Gaelic ; but there are not many of the young 
who cannot speak the Scotch, which, it is acknowledged, prevails 
now more than it did thirty or forty years ago. 

According to the usages of this parish, and, indeed, of the 
county, the terms for hiring farm as well as domestic servants, 
commence for the summer half year on the 20th of June, and for 
the winter half year on the 26th of November, or the 9th of June, 
and 15th of November old style. This is a very unequal division 
of the year, inasmuch as it makes a difference of very nearly seven 
weeks betwixt the summer and the winter half year. But this is 
not all ; for servants who complete their service on the 20th of 
June are not considered entitled to their wages till towards the 
end of August, — the time of a great annual market at Thurso, 
and as a great number of servants attend this market it gives them 
an opportunity of mis-spending their wages. A servant, whose 
term of service ends on the 26th of November, is not paid his 
wages till the 12th of January thereafter, which is the day observed 
by the country people as New- Year's Day, — a time when servants 
are too apt to spend their hard-earned penny in drink and other 
equally useless purposes. The dwelling-houses of the peasantry, 
constructed without much regard to the rules of architecture, have 
a forbidding appearance. This description is applicable to the 
greater number of houses. In most cases, all the houses neces- 
sary for the generality of tenants are built in a continued line. 
The barn and the kiln are in one end of this line> after these fol- 
lows the dwelling-house, generally divided into three apartments. 



After this come the byre, stable, and other necessary houses, ar- 
ranged in an order by no means the most convenient or pleasing. 
Some have of late built houses of better construction, which have 
a more pleasing aspect, and must at the same time afford their oc- 
cupiers more comfort than houses built after the structure follow- 
ed till very lately in this county. It may be mentioned that at- 
tention is paid to cleanliness, both in the domestic economy and 
dress of the peasantry, and the sober and the industrious enjoy 
that share of the comforts of life with which people in the lower 
ranks are generally found to be content ; and that they are so in 
this parish, the writer knows from the experience of several years 
spent among them. In a population so great, there must of neces- 
sity be individuals of very different dispositions, and of various de- 
grees of intelligence ; but, keeping out of view occasional brawls 
and a few squabbles which very seldom occur, the great mass of the 
population is to be considered as composed of good moral charac- 
ters, who, in outward behaviour, conduct themselves in a manner 
becoming the Christian name ; and there is a reason to hope, that 
not a few have felt the vital influences of the gospel of peace. 
The whole of the inhabitants, with the exception of thirtyrthree* 
individuals, are attached to the Established Church of Scotland. 
Making allowances for the distances which they have to travel, 
and the very bad roads by which they must come, the people on 
the whole are regular in attending public worship on the Sabbath, 
as well as catechetical exercises on week-days. That they are 
exempted from the failings and short-comings of our nature, is 
what can be neither expected nor affirmed. That a few young men, 
prompted by folly and the mere love of sport, should occasionally 
trespass against the game laws, can surprise no one who considers 
the temptations to which individuals are exposed in a place where 
wide extended moors, with abundance of game, are inducements 
to the sportsman too powerful to be resisted. This is not an apo- 
logy for breaches of law ; it is a mere statement of facts, which, 
when considered, must make the rarity of such breaches highly 
creditable to the inhabitants of remote districts, who can often 
commit a trespass of this nature without the least fear of de- 

IV. — Industry. 
Agrictdture.--^The parish, as already observed, may be cousi- 

* Of these, six, an exciseman and his family, who were Episcopalians, have lately 
left the parish. 



dered in extent as about 90 or 92 square miles,— 73,600 imperial 
acres : about 6000 of these are cultivated, as many under natural 
or meadow grass, and the rest is moor, moss, lakes, rivers, &c« The 
rate of annual rent is as high as L. 1, 10s. and as low as 2s. 6d. 
per acre. From what has already been done, it is quite evident 
that a great proportion of what is now waste ground might be im« 
proved to advantage, and, were the people encouraged to labour in 
this work, many would undertake the cultivation of such ground in 
preference to going to America at the imminent risk of their lives, 
and in violation of those feelings which make man cleave to the 
rugged rocks of his native mountain, the remembrance of which is 
associated in foreign climes with his recollection of the home and 
the country of his fathers. It is much to be regretted that those 
who do their utmost to subdue the stubborn soil of the moor 
and the mountain meet with so little encouragement. Instead of 
being made to pay a rent of ds. or 2s. 6d. for every acre brought 
into cultivation, it would be better policy to give four times the 
sum for every acre so cultivated, for at least five or six years after 
a poor person commences such laborious and expensive work, and 
then a moderate rent might be charged for an equal number of 
years. A plan of this nature would encourage individuals to improve 
waste grounds, which, as they are, yield no food for man, no re^ 
venue for the proprietors, — whereas, by following a different system 
from that adopted, they might be made to support the labourer, 
and to pay the landlord a certain per centage for moneys expended 
in inducing people to embark in the work. A good deal is cer- 
tainly done, but infinitely more would be cheerfully performed 
under a system which would hold out inducements for adding to 
what ope may already possess, instead of deterring him from doing 
anything that way, by the certainty of 5s. being added to his rent 
for every acre brought into cultivation. 

Quarries. — There are quarries of limestone in different parts of 
the parish. The lime made from these is used in masonry ; but it 
answers better in agricultural processes than for any other use it can 
be applied to. There are also quarries of flags. These are much 
used in flooring in country houses ; they are also used in paving ; 
for which they are remarkably well adapted. Great numbers of 
them are annually exported to Leith, Aberdeen, &c. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Market-Toum. — The nearest market-town is Thurso, which is 
about seven miles from the parish church. 


Means of CommunicatiofL'-^There are three roads through the 
parish by which people can travel to Thurso ; these are not finish- 
ed to the different extremities of the parish. They have been 
made within the last three years on Macadam's principles, and 
are in very good repair. An annual market is held in thq 
Tillage of Halkirk on the Tuesday before the 26th December. Its 
name is St Magnus ; it is not much attended. Another annual 
market is held within two miles of the church. The site of this mar- 
ket is the hill of Ruggy, which is partly in this parish, and partly in 
the parishes of Thurso and Bower. The market is principally a 
cattle one ; the situation is centrical ; and people from all parts of 
the county can conveniently attend. Five roads may be said to 
lead to the place where it is held : one from Thurso^ one through 
Bower and Watten, one from Wick, one from Latheron, and one 
through this parish. 

There are two bridges on the river of Halkirk ; one at the vil- 
lage not more than a quarter of a mile from the church. It was 
built in 1731, consists of three arches, and is very convenient and 
useful. It has of late undergone considerable repairs, and, if no 
unforeseen accident happen, it may stand for centuries to come. 
The other bridge is at Dale, five miles farther up the river than 
the Halkirk bridge. It contains two arches, each thirty feet span. 
It is quite new, having been finished in 1834. There is also a 
timber bridge in the Mission at Dirlot It is intended for the con- 
venience of people coming to hear preaching at the Mission-house, 
and is equally convenient for general and ordinary communication. 

There is a mile of turnpike road passing through a comer of 
the parish, and the mail-coach passes through this part of the pa- 
rish twice every day, but the inhabitants do not enjoy the benefit 
of it, for all letters for the parish are carried to Thurso, and some- 
times lie there a day or two before they are brought to the Bridge- 
end of Halkirk, to which there is a penny-bag thrice a week. This 
is kept up at an expense of L. 9, — a much greater expenditure 
than could be incurred were there a bag with all letters for the pa- 
rish left at one or other of the houses in that part of the parish 
through which the mail passes. Besides this mile of turnpike, 
there are three branches of county road, — ^the whole making an 
aggregate of about fifteen miles. 

Ecclesiastical State* — The church is situated on the east side of 
the river, — near the extremity of the parish on that side, — on the 
other, however, the parish extends three miles towards Thurso. 


The distance from the church to Achpheadair (PeterVfield) and 
Knockglass, the extremities on the west and north-west, is from five 
to six miles and a-half; the distance to Banniskirk and Achchipster, 
the extremities on the east and south-east, is three miles and a-half 
to the former, and six and a-half to the latter ; and the distance to 
Dalghanachain, Glutt, and Rumsdale, the utmost extremity to the 
south, is from twenty to twenty-four miles. The church was built in 
1753^ and underwent a substantial repair in 1833. It accommo- 
dates about 756 individuals ; 18 sittings are set apart for the poor 
by the heritors, and about 20 are provided for them by the minis- 
ter and session, by placing benches in wide passages. Till after 
the last repair of the church, none of the heritors rented their pro- 
portion of sittings in the church; some of them have since let the 
sittings to the tenants, and others have not A few farmers have 
claimed and obtained the same right to a seat in the church that 
they had previous to the repair. The highest rent charged for a 
sitting is 4s. and the lowest Is. The manse was built about the 
same time with the church, and underwent some repairs in 1823. 
The extent of the glebe is from 7^ to 8 imperial acres ; this in- 
cludes the site of the manse, the garden, &c. The annual value 
of the whole is from L. 8 to L, 10. The stipend is )5 chalders 
of victual, half meal and half barley, and L. 10 for communion 
elements. There is a missionary employed in the most distant 
parts of the parish, who is partly supported by the Committee for 
managing the Royal Bounty, and partly by the inhabitants of the 
mission district of the parish. The missionary has three preach- 
ing stations — one at Achrenny in this parish ; one at Halsary in 
the parish of Watten ; and the third at Halladale in the parish of 
Reay. To the Halsary district there is attached a part of the pa- 
rish of Latheron. The population in this parish within the bounds 
of the mission is 784 ; these are very much scattered, and are 
often prevented from attending the missionary's preaching by the 
river and other streams, which, especially during the winter and 
spring, are so much swollen, and that perhaps on the day the 
missionary is to preach in the district, that it is impossible for 
many to attend, and very likely they will not hear sermon again 
till the missionary is there three weeks thereafter. This produces 
great evils, — it begets indifference to the means of grace, and at 
last, in too many cases, a total neglect of these means. This is 
not to be attributed to the missionary, nor, humanly speaking, to 
the people, but to the system on which the mission is established, 


and the utter impoft»ibility of any one man being able, howeier 
giftml with abiliiiet and zeal, to discharge aright duties requiring 
continual derotedneif and unwearied labours to perform them 
either with succom of eflBciency. Is it to be supposed that a mi- 
mnicr can administer religious instruction to a population of at 
least 2500, scattered over the remote parts of three parishes, and 
the greater number of the distant glens and valleys in the high 
and mountainous districts of the county of Caithness ? Here is 
committed to the pastoral superintendence of a missionary a boun- 
doryi tlie extremes of which^ by a practicable road, are from forty 
to fifty miles distant from one another. The distance, however, is 
the least of the obstructions in the missionary's way, and of the 
difliculties ho has to encounter in the discharge of his highly im- 
portant duties : there are moors, mosses, and quaking fens which 
dlHJoin ono valley from another, and which make it impossible, ez« 
copt by circuitous routes, to pass from glen to glen during the win- 
tor and spring months. The number of sittings in the mission 
hoUHO is 403| of which 35 1 were let when a survey was made dur- 
ing the spring of last year ; the highest rent charged is Is. and the 
In wont (Ul. |>cr sitting. The whole church accommodation then 
in tlif> |mrish is 1150 sittings, which is by far too few were the 
ppopio within a distance that could enable them to attend regu- 
iiirlVi It in \)uo»tionAblO| however, how far the mission^house, 
t^^^^\\ tho oih'umManoos mcnCioned, with preaching once in the 
ihtvo wivks \\\\^\\\ to Ih« nH?koned church accommodation. There 
iMi^ l\N^^ ^"tittH'hiittjt oniploYinl by the minister and session, but they 
i^w \s\\\s\'\\M\\\) |Hiid by the j)arishioners. The parish church and 
||u» tMiulon \A\\\[i^\ are the only places of worship in the parish. 
'l\\\i totui \^t M denominations who do not attend public worship 
In ihn ICxttiblished Church is about 83 individuals; some of these 
^{p St»omlor(i, others Independents, and a few Baptists and Epis^ 

'l1io number of communicants in the parish is 1 10. These bear 
a NUUill proportion to the population ; but it is better to have a few 
whoso walk and conversation are in conformity with the faith and 
the doctrines of Christianity, than to admit a promiscuous multi- 
tude, whose only motive might be the enjoyment of the outward 
privileges conferred on the partakers of this sacrament. 

Education. — The number of schools taught in the parish during 
the last two or three years is 13. One of these is the parochial 
school ; another is supported by the Societv in Scotland for Pro- 


pagating Christian Knowledge; and the others, three of which are 
female schools, are wholly supported by the parents of the chil- 
dren. The branches taught are, reading, writing, arithmetic, 
book-keeping, English grammar, and at the parochial school Latin 
and all the other branches. The salary for the parochial school 
is the maximum, and the Society for Propagating Christian Know- 
ledge allow their teacher at Assary L.ld. l^e amount of fees 
varies according to attendance, from L. 3 to L. 5, per quarter ; the 
quarterly fees for each individual is Is. 6d. for reading; 2s. for 
reading and writing ; 2s. 6d. for arithmetic; 3s. for book-keep- 
ing and English grammar; and 5s, for Latin and geography. 
That the people are alive to the benefits of education, is evident 
from their supporting so many schools at their own charges, to in- 
struct their children in the elements of reading, writing, and arith- 
metic Were schools established at all the stations at which the 
people employ teachers, the inhabitants generally would be within 
such a distance of a school as would put it in their power to cause 
their children attend. The total number of children who attend- 
ed the different schools during the year 1835 was 411, and the 
average number for some years is 390. 

Friendly Societies, — There are five Friendly Societies in the pa- 
rish. The object of these is to give a weekly allowance to sick 
members, a sum for funeral charges when any of the member's fa- 
mily dies, and a quarterly allowance to the widows of members, 
who shall have contributed to the funds of the society at least se- 
ven years previous to their death. The total number of members 
in these five societies is 644 ; and the number of widows support- 
ed by them is 29. The funds of the Halkirk Village Society 
amount to L. 300. This is the first that was established in the 
parish. The others have been instituted at various periods since ; 
and one thing that stimulated their founders to get them establish- 
ed may have been the success that attended the first. These 
societies are useful, inasmuch as they put in the power of heads 
of families to provide so far for their wives and children, as to 
leave them independent of parochial relief.* 

Poor and Parochial Funds. — The anual average number receiv- 
ing parochial relief during the last ten years has been 95 ; and the 
average yearly sum given to each is 5s. Some of the absentee 

• Since the above was written, an innovation has been introduced into these so. 
cieties, which is likely to end in the dissolution of some of them. The cash was 
given out to some necessitous members, and, as this in too many instances was done 
without proper security, the money is not likely to be all repaid. 


heritors give occasionally a donation of L. 1 or L. 2, in aid of the 
poor's funds. There has been received in this way since 1828, 
about Li 13, 7s. There are two legacies of L. 100 each, the in- 
terest of which is given to the poor. The average of the church 
collections for the last few years has been L. 20, which, with the 
interest of the L. 200 and the donations, generally amount to 
L. 80 or L. 32. Out of this sum the session pay their clerk, pre- 
centor, officer, &c This, the only mode of supplying the wants 
of the poor, is, (except in very few cases,) found adequate to re- 
lievo tho poor and the needy, on whose part there is no desire to 
become chargeable to the parish when they can avoid it ; indeed, 
tho very small sum the funds afford is no inducement to any, ex- 
cept tho truly destitute, to apply for parochial relief. In addition 
to what the very poorest receive from the session, they beg among 
tho farmers, who are sufficiently liberal in giving them meal and 
other provisions, fully as acceptable to, and necessary for the poor 
aM money. 

Inns. — In tho village of Halkirk there are three inns, and four 
in other parts of the parish. Of the whole, three might be re- 
quiroil, but it is most surprising how such public nuisances are 
ullowod to increase to so alarming an extent, to the manifest in- 
jury of tho nu)ral$ of the youth of the parish. 

|>VirA — Thort^ is great abundance of moss in every part of the 
|mri>h« fr\>m which tho inhabitants have an excellent supply of 
|H^Us tho only fuel usoil in the parish. Every farmer is allowed 
to out as nmuY |H>ats on his landlord's property as he requires, 
iMul» a!«t fannors either cut and bring home their own peats, or em- 
\Ao\ thoir servants in doing so, the expense is very little, and sel- 
dom thought of, as the people have more time than money. 

General Observations. 
The most striking contrast betwixt the present state of the pa- 
rish and its state forty years ago is, that there is more cultivation 
carried on, — more of the waste grounds improved, — a better system 
of husbandry introduced, — and the quantity of grain raised is much 
greater than at the former period. The new roads lately made, 
and those intended to be made, as soon as an increase in the funds 
at the disposal of the trustees permits, will, in the course of some 
years, enable landlords and tenants to carry on improvements,, 
which must convince almost every one how little has yet been done 
of what it is possible to accomplish. 
Drawn up in 1834, 
Revised October 1840. 





L — Topography and Natural History. 

Extenty Sfc. — The parish of Latheron is situated on the south* 
east coast of Caithness, and bounded in that direction by the Ger- 
man Ocean and Moray Frith ; on the west, by Sutherlandshire ; 
and on the north and east, by the parishes of Halkirk, Watten, 
and Wick. It is 27 miles in length along the sea coast, and from 
10 to 15 in breadth, containing about 300 square miles. 

Name. — By the last Statistical Account, the ancient name of 
the parish is said to be ^* Loinn^ derived from Luidhoiu, which 
signifies, in the Gaelic, lodged or bedded hear^ because the lands 
contiguous to the church are of a good quality, and yield excellent 
bear." But there is another derivation, which has always appeared 
to the present writer equally probable and rather more natural, 
viz. from the Gaelic words Ldthair Roin, which signifies the re^ 
sort of seals, — a species of animal with which the whole coast is 
covered. Numbers of them are still taken, as will afterwards be 
noticed, and no doubt, in former times, the oil obtained from them 
afforded one means of support to the inhabitants. Besides, this 
derivation seems to accord best with the Gaelic name Latham, 
and to admit of a more easy transition into the modem or English 
name of Latheron. But especially it will be found by a reference 
to the Norse or Icelandic language, that the derivation here pre- 
ferred is much confirmed as to its probable correctness, — the words 
in that language having very much the same meaning. 

There is also another derivation suggested by the aspect of the 
parish, which seems scarcely less probable than that now conjec- 
tured, viz. from the Gaelic Lath-ar-shdnny signifying the day of 
the slaughter of heroes, or Lathair shonn^ the place of heroes. 
Indeed, considering the ancient predilection for commemorating 


the warlike achievements of heroes who had particularly singalized 
themselves, together with the many relics of bloody warfare still 
extant, this derivation has strong claims to a preference to the 

Topographical Appearance, — The general aspect of the parish is 
remarkably diversiGed, presenting a continued and frequently rapid 
succession of ^* hill and valley ;" in which respect^ it forms a strik- 
ing contrast to all the other parishes in the county. In the western 
extremity, in particular, the ravines are so deep and precipitous as 
to render the access to them difficult and sometimes dangerous ; 
whilst in the same quarter, the hills and mountains of various height 
and figure are in great abundance. Of the former the Ord of 
Caithness, Brenahegleish, and Benachieit are of chief importance, 
and of the latter M6r-bheiu or Morven, Scaraben, and the Pap, 
are most conspicuous. The view fnim their summits is very ex«> 
tensive, embracing, in a clear atmosphere, a great part of twelve 
different counties, besides a vast range of the Atlantic and Ger- 
man oceans. Of the three, Morven, as its Gaelic name indicates, 
is by much the highest, and is supposed to be more than a mile 
above the level of the sea, whence it is generally the first land 
in this quarter seen by mariners, and, as a landmark, is of 
great use in stormy weather. It is worthy of notice that, as 
indicating wet or dry weather, it possesses the confidence of the 
whole county. During harvest especially, all eyes are directed to- 
wards it, and it never deceives. Near its summit, there is a deli- 
cious spring, which is very refreshing to the traveller exhausted in 
gaining its top. The straths are numerous and very beautiful, par- 
ticularly those along the rivers of Langwell, Berriedale, and Dun- 
beath. Scenery more highly romantic and picturesque than that 
on the two former, is not to be met with in the north of Scotland. 
They are admired by every traveller. Their steep banks were 
once densely and extensively wooded, and still there is as much 
remaining as to contribute to their beauty, if not to their value. 
The whole line of coast is compof^d of bold and perpendicular 
rocks, rising from 100 to 300 feet above the sea; forming 
a barrier to the tremendous surge which frequently rolls in 
from the ocean. It is also much indented, in consequence of 
the numerous streams that flow from the interior, and at their junc- 
tion with the sea form inlets more or less spacious. These afibrd 
a very convenient shelter for the boats engaged in the herring-fish- 


ing. The caves are numerous, and some of t^em from 50 to 60 
fathoms long. Very fine massive specimens of crystallized lime 
have been taken from the tops and sides of them, and are still 
preserved. But they are chiefly celebrated for the great numbers 
of seals that frequent them at all seasons, which renders them not 
merely convenient but often lucmtive. The caves are usually vi« 
sited in November, and entered by means o( a boat during the 
night when the seals are at rest. The boat is well manned with 
experienced hands, having each a large piece of wood, and a torch 
or candle. They require to use great caution in approaching the 
cave, as the seals are always on the alert, and upon hearing the least 
noise rush forward with astonishing rapidity towards the sea, in 
which they immediately disappear, putting the water into great agi-^ 
tation. When the boat is perceived before taking the ground, 
most of them escape in this way. As soon as the boat has ground- 
ed, the men leap out with great agility, and, intercepting the seals 
in their progress downwards, strike them on the head, when they 
instantly fall. On any other part the blow has no effect. In this 
manner, several scores have been captured at a time ; but of late 
from twenty to thirty is considered a good taking. 

The principal headlands are the Ord, Berriedale-head, and 

Climate. — The climate, generally speaking, is dry, and, for or* 
dinary constitutions, extremely healthy ; to which the elevation of 
the land and the consequent rarity of the atmosphere much con- 
tribute. These circumstances, however, seem to favour heavy 
gales of wind, which are frequently experienced, particularly from 
the west and north-we$t. The temperature of the atmosphere 
may be about 56° Fahrenheit. 

Considering the extraordinary density of the population, diseas* 
es are by no means frequent. Fever and rheumatism are certain- 
ly most prevalent It has been observed that the former is very 
commonly carried by infection from the lower parts of the county, 
and the latter appears to be much occasioned by the want of 
warm clothing suited to the laborious habits of the people. For'- 
merly, all the small tenantry were in possession of a few sheep, and 
by this means provided themselves with suitable clothing; but of 
late, owing to the great increase of population, and the conse- 
quent demand for land, their farms have been so reduced in ex- 
tent by division and subdivision from year to year, that comparative- 


ly few sheep can be kept by them, which, both in respect tofoodantL 
clothing, is most disadvantagepus. Instances of longevity are very 
frequent, — several persons now living are nearly 100 years of age, 
and one man has completed his 105th year, and is stiil in possession 
of all his faculties. As formerly stated, the Moray Frith forms 
the boundary of this parish on the south-east It varies in breadth 
from 50 to 60 miles, possesses fine fishing-ground ; but in stormy 

weather the sea is easily raised into what sailors call a short tumb* 

ft .. 

ling swell, which frequently proves fatal to fishing boats. The 
tides are of considerable rapidity, and may be about two hocir» and 
three-quarters before Leith. Perennial springs abound throughout 
the parish, and the temperature of such as have been tried was 
found, some of the more copious at 54% and the less so at 56^ and 
58°. Many of them are much impregnated with iron. There are 
three rivers in the parish, viz. Dunbeath, Berriedale and Langwell, 
which abound with trout and salmon. They have their source 
from twelve to sixteen miles from the sea, but are very small in 
summer, though much swollen in winter, and very rapid. The 
only lakes are Rangay and Stempster, in both of which there js plen- 
ty of trout and eels. On the east side of the former, there are the 
remains of a small fortification, which was evidently surrounded by 
the water of the lake by means of a ditch ; and contiguous to the 
latter are) the ruins of a Druidical temple and the Arch-Druid's 

Geology. — The geological features of this parish are totally dif- 
ferent from those of the rest of the county, and merit more notice 
than the prescribed limits of this Account admit of. The greater 
part of Caithness is what is called a secondary formation, consist- 
ing chiefly of clay flagstone, having more or less calcareous matter 
with a few instances of the red sandstone, elevated into lofty head- 
lands at Dunnet and Duncansbay. On approaching the northern 
boundary of the parish, betwixt Ulbster and Bruan, a great change 
is observable in the physical character of the country. Beyond 
this point, the southern portion of the county, embracing this parish, 
along the eastern coast is hilly and much diversified. A numbe? * 
of streams intersect it, swelling in the winter to a great size. The 
elevated portion of this district rises from the knotty promontory 
of Clyth-ness, and forms several irregular terraces, occupying the 
north part of the parish. The lowest of these dip 25** to 30^ in- 
land, while the higher and more rotund incline only 8° or 10%" 


Near the shore, blue calcareous flagstone occurs, and is overlaid 
by a series of sandstone beds of considerable thickness. Bena- 
cheilt is the highest part of this region, and round it the strata are 
arranged in a fan-shaped form, so that while the beds on the coast, 
at Nottingham and Latheron, dip westerly, at Braehungay on the 
south side of this hill, they veer round to the N.E. against the 
hill; and still farther inland, at Achavanich, the dip is E.S.E. 
Between Latheron and Dunbeath, the beds rise into micaceous 
sandstones alternating with blue calcareous flagstone. At the lat- 
ter place they consist of bluish and gray close-grained sandstone, 
with occasional alternating of greenish and bluish flagstones, and 
are prolonged into hills in the interior, distinctly resting upon the 
old red conglomerate, or puddingstone of Braemore, connected 
with the chain of mountains forming the southern boundary of the 
county. Along the coast, the same slaty beds continue to prevail 
in high clifis to the south of Berriedale. At Borgue, there is an 
isolated mass of the old conglomerate, probably owing its existence 
to the degradation of the nearest point of the Scarabins, a primary 
mass of quartz rock. This range of high bare rock is clasped on 
each side by the conglomerate series, composing nearly the whole 
of the surrounding hills, which, being prolonged between the 
Scarabins and the granite of the Ord, terminate in the cliff be- 
tween Berriedale and Ausdale. The coast thence to the Ord is 
occupied by red micaceous flagstone, succeeded by some beds of 
red sandstone rising into a perpendicular cliff about 800 feet high 
at Trefad. Masses of the conglomerate also present themselves 
occasionally, particularly in the cliff at Badbea. Farther south, 
the cliff again changes its character, and is occupied by great 
crumbhng masses of red marl and sandstone, containing a few 
bands of bluish flagstone. These gradually pass into a strong red 
sandstone, which is separated from the granite mass of the Ord by 
a high cliff of conglomerate. The junction is nearly marked by 
a cascade of the Ausdale rivulet, which tumbles into the sea from 
the height of 100 feet over these conglomerate rocks. 

The necessarily brief and imperfect outline here given affords 
no adequate idea of the interesting geological character of this 
district To convey a more complete view of it would be in* 
admissible here. It may be proper, however, to state that the 
old conglomerate, composing the southern hills of this parish, 
and stretching thence along the borders to the west side of the 


county, is considered as forming the lowest bed of the secondary 
formation, being succeeded by beds of siliceous and calcareo-sili- 
ceous flagstone and slate-clay, which occupies the great body of 
the county from sea to sea, sinking at length under the highest or 
uppermost of the secondary series, the new red sandstone of Dun- 
net and Duncansbay Heads. 

Soil — The soil varies considerably in nature and quality in dif- 
ferent parts of the parish. On the estates of Langwell and Dun- 
beath in the west end, it is generally of a sharp gravelly description, 
and very dry. Latheronwheel and Liatheron, being next in order, 
are less gravelly, but sufficiently sharp and mellow. Torse, Swiney, 
and Lybster rather wet and cold, having for the substratum a strong 
tenacious clay, which renders it later in bringing the crops to ma^ 
turity ; whilst the estate of Clyth in the eastern extremity very 
much partakes of the dry, sharp loam of the centre and western 
districts. Upon the whole, the soil may be pronounced shallow, 
but easily wrought, and, with good management, capable of pro- 
ducing all kinds of grain, together with clover, turnips and pota- 
toes. In many parts it abounds with detached rocks and large 
stones, which form a serious obstacle to the plough ; and though 
much has been done towards the removing of them out of the cuU 
tivated ground, yet still much remains to be done, and this circum- 
stance presents a great discouragement in the way of improvement ; 
yet it is, nevertheless, progressing rapidly. 

Zoology. — Before the introduction of sheep-farming, deer were 
to be found in considerable numbers on the estates of Langwell, 
Braemore, and Dunbeath, but for many years back they are rarely 
to be met with ; but grpuse, ptarmigan, and blackcock are in great 
abundance. The salmon on the rivers are of uncommonly 6ne 
quality. The rivers of Berriedale and Langwell unite when about 
200 yards from the sea, and it is remarkable that the native fish 
of one river are rarely to be found in the other. At the spawning 
season, the salmon of both rivers seem to bear one another com- 
pany till they come to the point of separation, when, from a cu- 
rious peculiarity of natural instinct, each selects its native stream. 
There are about twenty difiFerent species of fish caught on the 
coast. Those of greatest importance in an economical point of 
view are, herrings, cod, haddocks, skate, and flounders. 

IL — Civil History. 
.From the want of authentic records as to the early history of 


this parish, very little can be noticed under this head. Judginjify 
however, from the number and variety of the remains of those 
places of strength which it contains, together with the other war- 
like relics of barbarous and feudal times with which it is every- 
where bestudded, there can be no doubt that it formed the scene 
of many a well fought field. But, as usually happens in such 
cases, tradition has been very fertile in supplying th6 lack of more 
correct information. One tradition out of many may be noticed as 
highly probable. It refers to the last invasion of this county by the 
Danes. On that occasion they landed near the town of Thurso, 
under the command of the young Prince of Denmark, and the 
natives, not being in sufficient strength to oppose them, retreated 
across the county, followed by the invaders, till they came to the 
hill of Ben-a-gheil, in this parish, distant twenty miles from Thurso* 
By this time, the ranks of the natives having been greatly increased 
in number, and being now in view of the coast where their retreat 
must be stopped, deriving courage also from the very favourable^ 
position they occupied on this hill, — they resolved to try the fyte 
of a pitched battle. Having taken their ground, the enemy soon 
came up and attempted to dislodge them, when they poured down 
in one dense mass, broke the enemy's ranks, killed their leader, 
and routed their whole force. A huge stone, placed perpendicular 
in the ground, resembling a pillar, marks the place where the 
Prince fell ; and from this occurrence the hill itself seems to de- 
rive its Gaelic name, Ben-a-gheil, signifying the hill where they 
yielded, or were overcome. 

Eminent Men, — One of the most eminent men known to have 
been connected with this parish, was the late Sir John Sinclair 
of Ulbster, Bart, author of the former Statistical Account of 
Scotland, the Code of Agriculture, &c. &c. ; a man who was an 
ornament to the age in which he lived, and of whom any parish 
or county might deservedly boast Sir John was principal pro- 
prietor in this parish, and the estate of Langwell, then in his pos- 
session, was his favourite resort during the periods of his re- 
sidence in the county. Here he commenced some of his earliest 
and most extensive improvements in the several departments of 
plantation, agriculture, and sheep-farming, in the first and last 
of which he completely succeeded ; and much of the beauty and 
utility of this valuable property is owing to his spirited and perse- 
vering exertions, seconded, as they were, by the skill and good 


taste of his successor, the late James Horae, Esq. of LangwelL 
Od Sir John Sinclair's merits as a man of varied talent, an able 
and extensive author, an accomplished scholar, or skilful states 
man, it is not intended here to enlarge^ as the subject more pro- 
perly belongs to his native parish of Thurso. He was possessed of 
a singularly intelligent, active, andl benevolent mind, insomuch 
that no parish or district of country could have enjoyed his pre- 
sence for any length of time ¥dthout being benefited thereby. 
Indeed, such was the quickness of his perception, and the warmth 
of his philanthropy, that even in his passing visits to quarters 
where' he had no personal interest, he seldom failed to suggest 
some measures for the improvement of the soil, and especially of 
its inhabitants, and was always ready, from his own resources^ to 
assist in carrying them into execution. Of this a very striking 
instance occurred in the highlands of Perthshire, and was com- 
municated to the writer when visiting the person with whom the 
transaction was entered into. On one occasion Sir John hap* 
pened to be travelling along Loch Tay side, and observing 
the country very densely peopled with small tenantry, and that 
the lofty range of mountains, green to the very summits, with 
which this beautiful lake is surrounded, were chiefly pastured by 
sheep, inquired how the people, in so remote a quarter, disposed 
of their wool ; and being informed that each family employed one, 
two, or three spinning wheels, according to the number of females 
it contained, it readily occurred to him that a spinning mill might 
prove a great acquisition in the district, and find abundant em- 
ployment. He accordingly sought out the ablest person for such 
an undertaking, and was directed to a Mr M'Naughton in the 
vicinity of Kenmore. To him he immediately repaired, and, after 
enumerating the advantages likely to arise to the whole neighbour*, 
hood from such a concern, together with the great probability of 
its success, and the prospect of the emoluments which it held out, 
strongly urged him to undertake it. This Mr M*Naughton at 
first declined, assigning as a reason, that neither he nor any other 
individual in the place could afford to run the risk of a failure. 
« Well," said Sir John, "but will you conduct it, provided I take the 
risk upon myself?" To this Mr M'Naughton, after some hesita- 
tion, assented. The mill was soon procured and commenced ope- 
rations, and so completely were Sir John's predictions realized, 
tliat in a few years thereafter, Mr M*Naughton erected other two 



at bis own expense in other parts of the country ; a circumstance 
no less gratifying to the originator, than advantageous to the sur* 
rounding community. 

Ldxnd'owners. — The chief land-owners of the parish are, Sir 
G^rge Sinclair of Ulbster, Bart.; William Sinclair, Esq. of 
Freswick ; John Sutherland, Esq. of Forse ; Donald Home, Esq. 
of Langwell ; Colonel Gordon of Swiney ; Lord Duffus ; Sir 
Ralph A. Anstruther, Bart. ; Temple Frederick Sinclair, Esq. of 
Lybster ; and Donald Munro, Esq. of Latheron. 

Parochial Registers, — The earliest date of the parochial records 
now extant is 1755. They have been pretty regularly kept tHl 
1770. There is then a chasm of nearly thirteen years to 1788^ 
after which they have, with few exceptions, been correctly kept ; 
especially since 1813^ the entries are scrupulously correct 

Antiquities. — From the great number of castles in this parish, it 
would appear as if the chief strength of the county were concentrat- 
ed in it There are no fewer than eight of them along the sea-coast, 
and for the most part built on the very brink of high and perpendicu- 
lar rocks overhanging the sea, and inaccessible from that quarter. 
They were also so constructed as to admit of separation from the 
land at pleasure, the chief connection being by means of a draw- 
bridge. The greater number of them are now in ruins, but, from 
the height, strength, and thickness of the walls of those that re- 
main, it may easily be conceived what a formidable obstacle they 
presented to an invading enemy in those times, standing as they 
do in such close succession. Beginning at the south, their names 
are Berriedale, Achastle, Dunbeath, (still inhabited,) Knockinnan, 
Latheron, Forse, Swiney, and Clyth. Several of them are still 
celebrated for the warlike deeds of their brave, though ferocious 
original possessors, and it is highly instructive to contrast the se- 
curity, peace, and tranquillity of those who now surround them, 
with the insecurity, rapine, and bloodshed that prevailed in former 
days. It is hardly necessary to add, that these ruins present not 
the slightest traces either of the graces of ornament, or the em- 
bellishments of art, which so tastefully adorn more modern archi« 

Modem Buildings. — The only buildings of recent erection de- 
serving of notice are the churches of Berriedale and Lybster. The 
former is a Government church, of very neat construction, though 
small in size. It was built in 1826, and contains about 300 sitters* 


There is a very comfortable manse close by it. Both are very 
compact, and a great ornament to the district in which they are 
placed. The latter, viz. Lybster, was built by subscription in 
1836. It is a substantial, well-6nished^ and most comfortable 
church. It contains 805 sittings, and cost L.630. It is placed 
in the village of Lybster, from which it takes its name, and to the 
importance of which it contributes not less by its utility than its 
acknowledged ornament 


From the want of correct records, it is impossible to ascertain 
the ancient state of the population with accuracy. Tliere can be 
no doubt, however, that it has been progressing during the last 
century at a very rapid rate. It is stated in the former Statistical 
Account, that the population had nearly doubled during the 
seventy years preceding 1794, when it amounted to 4006 ; and 
such has been the extraordinary rapidity of the increase during 
the forty years that have since elapsed, that it is now fblly double 
that amount. Where this extraordinary increase of country po- 
pulation is to terminate, and by what means a suitable provision is 
to be made for their comfortable support, it is difficult to imagine. 
At present there are no indications of a decrease, unless sheep- 
farming, which commenced some time ago, should become more 

The chief cause of the recent astonishing increase in the 
population is unquestionably the great and growing extent to 
which the herring-fishing has been prosecuted along the whole 
coast, and the extraordinary success with which it has generally 
been attended. Upon its permanency or failure, therefore, main* 
ly depends the future continued increase, or rapid decrease of the 

The present number of the population residing in villages is - 535 

In the rest of the parish, - - - . 7445 

The yearly average of births for the last seven years, is - - 197 
No record is kept of deaths. 

The yearly average of marriages, ... • 53 

The average number (in 1831) of persons under 15 years of age, is -> 2699 

betwixt 15 and 90, - 1730 

30 and 50, - 1501 

50 and 70, - 791 

upwards of 70, . . 169 

The number of proprietors of land of the yearly value of L. 50 and upwards. 9 

Males unmarried, upwards of 50 years of age, - - - 57 

Females, do. • 45 do. - • • - 348 

Numberof families in 1831, ... . 1406 

Average number of children for each family in the parish, - -2 


Number of famtlies employed in agriculture in 1881, . 1068 

trade, manufacture, or handicraft, 161 

Number of fatuous persons, 20 ; bliud, 3. 

Language^ Habits^ ^c. — The Gaelic language is generally 
Kpoken by the lower class of people throughout the greater part 
of the parish, but it has certainly lost ground during the last forty 
years, and, in proportion as the improved system of education ad- 
vances, it will no doubt continue to decline still more. In proof 
of this, the presbytery of Caithness have lately come to the deci- 
sion to discontinue the preaching of the Gaelic language in the 
eastern district of the parish occupied by the mission of Bruan, 
where a missionary was last year appointed, who has no Gaelic 
Formerly the missionary always preached in both languages, but, 
in all probability, this system is not likely to be again resorted to. 
It is a singular circumstance* that, for a long period, the burn of 
East Clyth seems to have formed the boundary between the Gae* 
lie and English languages. On the east side of it,' scarcely a word 
of Gaelic was either spoken or understood, and on the west side the 
English shared the same fate ; and this was the more wonderful, 
as both sides were rather densely peopled. Now, however, the 
English has not only made encroachments upon the Gaelic terri<* 
tory, but has extended itself over the whole neighbouring dis* 
trict ; and, indeed, were it not that its progress was consider- 
ably impeded by the importation of several colonies of High- 
landers from the heights of Kildonan and other- parts of Suther- 
landshire about twenty years ago, when the sheep system com- 
menced there, its triumphs, ere now, would have been still more 

,A very decided improvement has, for many years back, been ob- 
servable both in the external appearance and interna} comforts of 
the cottages of the peasantry. The old hovels are iast disappear* 
ing, and neat substantial houses, having vents and chimney tops in 
one or both ends, are occupying their places. With these im- 
provements in the accommodations and comforts of the people, 
there has, as might naturally be expected, been a somewhat pro- 
portional advance in their habits of cleanliness and manner of 
dress, in both of which many of them display considerable taste 
and neatness. Indeed, there is reason to fear that the youth of 
both sexes are, in the article of dress, rather in danger of exceed- 
ing their means. The ordinary food consists of oat and bear 


meal, potatoes, and fish of various kinds, of which there is usually 
an abundant supply. In the latter article, few parishes are pos- 
sessed of equal advantages, for, in addition to the opportunities of 
obtaining white fish of excellent quality when the weather is mo- 
derate, each family lays in a regular stock of from one to three 
barrels of cured herrings, according to the number of persons of 
which it consists. This, vnth potatoes, milk, and a moderate 
quantity of bread, together with a little animal food occasionally, 
forms a wholesome and nourishing diet at all seasons. 

Cionsidering the many disadvantages in respect to religious and 
moral training under which this parish has long laboured, arising 
from its immense extent, and the density of its population, crowd- 
ed together, in many quarters, in large masses, — the extraordi- 
nary lack of respectable and exemplary iamilies located among 
them, so necessary to give a tone to the morals of the lower 
classes,— -the very unfavourable nature of their ordinary avocations 
towards the fostering and maturing of religious habits, — together 
with the scarcity of competent instructors to maintain a strict and 
continuous pastoral superintendence among them, — considering 
these acknowledged disadvantages, it is wonderful and pleasing to 
perceive the hold which religious principle and moral responsibility 
possess over the people generally ; whilst in very many particular 
cases, the acuteness and intelligence discoverable on religious sub- 
jects, combined, iis frequently happens, with fervent and unobtru- 
sive piety, are not less striking and refreshing to contemplate, than 
diffusive and beneficial in their consequences. That instances of 
ignorance and irreligion, attended by their natural offspring, vice 
and immorality, are to be met with, cannot be denied ; but, in a 
community so circumstanced, the great wonder is, that they do 
not prevail to a much greater extent. This is to be attributed, 
under Providence, to the wholesome checks and remedies which 
have more recently been applied, by extending, as far as possible, 
the improved system of education, and providing additional facili- 
ties of religious instruction and pastoral superintendence over the 
more remote and destitute districts ; a system which, even in its 
infancy, is already producing a marked improvement on the ha- 
bits of the people generally. 

Upon the whole, the peasantry may be said to possess a tole- 
rable degree of knowledge for their station in life. With few ex- 
ceptions, they are well acquainted with the catechisms and leading 


doctrines of our church, which maintain a powerful influence over 
them in all the relations of life. In particular, their minds are 
deeply imbued with suitable impressions of an overruling Provi- 
dence governing all things according to the Divine will ; a prin- 
ciple which, whilst it moderates their joy in prosperity, power- 
fully supports them under adversity. Of this there were innume- 
rable instances of a very pleasing nature during the three past 
years, when, as is well known, the crops were almost a total fail- 
ure all over the Highlands. The patient resignation and deep 
submission with which this heavy calamity was borne, could not 
fail to excite the admiration of every attentive observer. Instead 
of riot, robbery, and bloodshed, which in many other quarters fol- 
low in the train of less formidable privations, here the public peace 
was never disturbed ; but, on the contrary, life, and even property 
in general, were alike secure as in more favourable circumstances. 
To behold 7000 people suffering under the most distressing des- 
titution for three successive years, many families without a hand- 
ful of meal in their houses for weeks together, others satisfled 
with a little water-gruel once a-day, and still nothing but quiet- 
ness and submission prevailing, what a triumph for that sound 
Scriptural education to which they are early habituated, and con- 
sequent religious principle of which it seldom fails to be produc- 
tive ! A high veneration for the being, attributes, and worship 
of the Deity is everywhere observable. The sanctity of the Sab- 
bath is universally upheld. Scarcely a movement is to be seen 
during that sacred day excepting to or from the places of public 
worship, which are remarkably well attended. The important 
duty of family worship, so necessary for the formation and 
exhibition of the Christian character, is also very generally 

But whilst it is truly pleasing to dwell upon the ascendency 
which these principles and habits possess among the great body 
of the peasantry, yet a regard to truth requires the admission, 
however painful, that instances do occur, from time to time, of 
a character directly opposite. Of these one of the greatest irregu- 
larities is that of drinking ardent spirits, to which not a few are 
addicted, especially during the winter season. This degrading 
practice was formerly occasioned by the extent to which the smug- 
gling of whisky was carried on ; but the system of heavy fines or im- 
prisonment, introduced many years ago in all cases of detection. 


was the meaus of checking it in a great degree. But this system 
was soon relaxed on account of the expenses attending the im- 
prisonment of delinquents. Then followed a more vigilant and 
active surveillance on the part of the excise, particularly the inde- 
fatigable exertions of one active officer, a Mr M*Mahon, whose 
very name spread terror all over the county, from the Ord of 
Caithness to John O* Groats, by the havoc he made upon this ne- 
farious and demoralizing trade. He was neither to be bribed nor 
deceived, and scarce a single case escaped his detection in the 
whole range of the county. This has given the 6nishing blow to 
smuggling in this quarter, and for several years not a single case 
has occurred here. The good effects of this change are already 
apparent in the districts where the practice most prevailed ; but 
it is only when the present generation shall have passed away, that 
the full advantage will be appreciated. Another practice attend- 
ed with very pernicious effects is that frequently adopted by fish- 
curers, of giving from 6ve to seven gallons of whisky to each boat's 
crew during the herring-fishing season, which, on an average, will 
be at the rate of one bottle to each crew of four mea every fishing 
night ; and although some have the prudence to reserve a consi- 
derable part of it, yet others consume their whole allowance. By 
this means young men are led into drinking habits very early. It 
is a great evil, and loudly calls for a remedy. 

Poaching in the moors and rivers can hardly be said to exist, 
owing to the strict regulations adopted by the proprietors. In- 
deed such is their authority over the tenantry, that it is complete- 
ly in their power to suppress smuggling, thieving, and even habits 
of excessive drinking at any time, were they to put that authority 
in vigorous execution, and to act in concert. But so far is this 
from being always the case, as it certainly ought to be, that it is 
no uncommon occurrence to see individuals notorious for one or 
other of the above practices, when removed from one property, 
received on that immediately adjoining it; by which, means they 
sometimes become more injurious to that from which they have 
been removed, (by theft for instance,) than if they had been per- 
mitted to remain unmolested. Besides, how cruel is it towards 
those among whom such characters are placed ! Were certifi- 
cates of moral character strictly insisted upon from every new te- 
nant, many irregularities would be greatly checked — a precaution 
urgently called for. 



IV. — Industry. 

Agriculture and Rural Economy. — Although the lands in this 
parish are well adapted for agriculture, and although it contains 
several farms in the very highest state of cultivation, yet, as the 
great body of its inhabitants are engaged in the herring-fishing, 
and make the cultivation of the soil little more than a secondary 
concern, it is, perhaps, less agricultural than many other parishes 
in the county, that are greatly inferior in extent, population, and 
internal resources. Its pastoral qualities are peculiarly valuable, 
and likely to be put in still more extensive requisition. 

It contains fully 140,000 imperial acres, of which about 9000 
are arable, and about an equal quantity capable of being made so, 
though at a considerable expense, from the great number of rocks 
and isolated large stones near the surface. There are probably not 
more than 250 acres of undivided common in the whole parish, 
and about 720 acres of wood of all descriptions ; by far the greater 
part of which consists of natural brushwood, chiefly along the ro- 
mantic banks of the rivers Berriedale, Langwell, and Dunbeath. 
At the former, however, there is a considerable extent of planted 
wood of all kinds, and well attended to in respect to pruning, &c. ; 
and at the latter, there is a tasteful plantation just laid out, which 
will in a few years appear highly ornamental as well as useful. At 
Braemore and Latheronwheel also a good deal has been done, and 
with considerable success ; as also at Lybster, where neither pains 
nor expense have been spared for many years back. But here the 
roots have to contend with a less favourable soil, whilst the trees 
themselves are much exposed from the want of natural shelter, the 
ground being flat, and the soil damp and tenacious, — two obstacles 
formidable in an ungenial climate ; yet there is a striking evidence 
of what can be done by pains and perseverance. 

Bent. — The average rent of arable land is certainly very high, 
considering the indiflerent crops raised by the small tenantry ge- 
nerally. It is about L.1, 5s. per acre, — more than can be realized 
by the occupiers generally, — but then the fishing is expected to 
make up the deficiency. The rate of grazing may be about 
L. 2, 10s. for a cow, and 9s. for a sheep on arable ground, and 
15s. for a cow, and 3s. for a sheep on hill pasture. 

JVaffes. — Day-labourers, employed in ditching, draining, or 
roads, usually receive at the rate of 2d. per hour, or 9s. per week. 
Masons and carpenters from 2s. to 3s. per day ; men and women 
employed for harvest work, the former L.1, 10s. and the latter L.I, 


98 CAlTllNESS-SniRE. 

with an allowance of meal and potatoes sufficient to support them 
until the crops are secured. Farm-servants obtain from L. 6 to 
L.8 a-year, according to their quali6cations, and 6 bolls of meal, 
together with potatoes and a little milk. Women for household, 
work are from L. 3 to L. 4 with their victuals, &c. in the family. 

Breeds of Live-Stock. — Much attention is now being paid to the 
improvement of the breeds of sheep and cattle. Cheviot sheep of the 
finest description are reared on the farms of Langwell and Dunbeath, 
and frequently obtain prizes at the shows at Inverness. On several 
corn farms, crosses between the Leicester and Cheviot breeds are be- 
coming common. The same system is pursued in respect to cattle, 
and the crosses most in repute are between the Teeswater and 
good Highlanders. For this description there is a ready demand 
at good prices, and, in all probability, the great attention now paid 
to the rearing of stock is only in its infancy. The great facilities 
now afforded for the conveyance of stock by steam to the Edin- 
burgh and London markets with such regularity and rapidity, is 
fast drawing forth the resources of this county generally, and every 
parish in particular. 

Husbandry. — Although the greater portion of the land is occu- 
pied by small tenantry, with whom the cultivation of the soil forms 
but a secondary concern, yet there are several extensive and well- 
managed farms in the parish, on which crops of the best descrip- 
tion are raised. The six- year shift is that in most general use, 
viz. turnip, barley or bear, two crops grass, one cut and the other 
pastured, and two crops oats, one of potato or Hopetoun, and the 
other of Angus or dun oats. Wheat is sometimes raised of good 
quality ; but in the general run of seasons it has not been found a 
profitable crop, owing chiefly to the want of sufficient warm wea- 
ther to bring it to maturity. Pease and beans are also tried, and 
sometimes succeed ; but they may be considered a very precarious 
crop, owing to the wet weather often experienced during harvest, 
when it is extremely difficult to secure them in a good state. 

Draining has of late been practised to a very great extent on 
the principal farms, and with evident advantage. For example, 
one small field of about four acres has been drained this year at 
an expense of about L.20. Even furrow draining has been tried 
on a small scale, and in all probability will become more general. 
Lime has been found most serviceable on dry lands, and has been 
a good deal in use ; but the depressed state of farm produce for 
many years back has operated as a great discouragement to the 


use of this expensive but valuable manure. Considerable tracts 
of waste ground have been reclaimed by almost all the proprietors 
during tlie last twenty years ; chiefly, however, with the view of 
extending the farms under their o^n management. Among these 
improvements, none have been so perfectly executed as those on the 
beautiful estate of Lftngwell, by the late proprietor, James Home, 
Esq. A considerable portion was trenched at a great expense 
where the soil was shallow, and other parts of moor- ground, hav- 
ing from one to two feet of moss on the surface, were 6rst plough- 
ed, then burnt, and laid down with a large allowance of lime, 
carted a distance of ten miles. This was done twelve or fourteen 
years ago, and has never yet been turned up, yet it continues to 
retain a rich and close sward of pasture grass, without discovering 
any symptoms of relapsing into its original heath, as so general- 
ly happens when the work is done in a less perfect style. On the 
estates of Dunbeath, Latheronwheel, Forse, Lybster, and Clyth, 
much has also been done, though in a less expensive manner. 
The system pursued by the smaller tenantry has in several respects 
been improved of late. Instead of four small horses and a driver 
to every plough, two horses without a driver are now universal- 
ly used. And, instead of the clumsy awkward plough formerly 
in use, the neat iron plough is becoming very general. The land 
]f also better cleaned, although the rotation of oats and bear al- 
ternately is very little changed ; only a greater breadth of potatoes 
is planted, and good white and dun oats have supplanted the old 
black and gray inferior qualities. In a few cases also small patches 
of grass are sown out after potatoes. This practice would speedi- 
ly become general, were it not for the want of enclosures to pre- 
serve the grass from being injured during winter, and that there 
is no winter herding. 

Leases. — Leases of fourteen or nineteen years are granted on 
the larger farms, but the small tenantry generally hold their farms 
only from year to year — a system alike prejudicial to their com- 
forts, and the interests of the proprietor. Short leases are, how- 
ever, becoming more common, and will no doubt speedily become 

The condition of some of the farm- buildings is excellent, others 
of them again are exceedingly bad. But, as in all other things con- 
nected with rural economy, there has been a progressive improve- 
ment of late. The same observations are applicable to the enclosures. 
These chiefly consist of stone fences, together with whin and thorn 


hedges. Most of the stone fences are old and decayed, and do not 
suit theimproved system of keeping a suitable portion of each 
farm under sheep. Should the present system be persevered in, 
as is most probable, they will require to be renewed. Indeed, this 
is to commence immediately on the farm of Clyth, the property 
of Sir George Sinclair, where a new farm-steading and proper en- 
closures are forthwith to be erected on a new lease of that excel- 
lent farm. All the new houses are slated, and in other respects 
very commodious. 

Improvements. — The principal improvements which have taken 
place within the last thirty years, in as far as agriculture is con- 
cerned, may be briefly enumerated as follows : fully 2000 acres of 
waste ground reclaimed ; better accommodations in farm-buildings; 
a vast extent of enclosures executed ; agriculture much more sys- 
tematically and advantageously pursued ; more attention given to 
the culture and clearing of the land ; draining practised much 
more extensively, and executed in a more skilful style; better breeds 
of horses, cows, and sheep ; superior facilities both for*expedition 
and security in conveying them to the southern markets ; a much 
wider breadth of turnips sown and heavier crops raised, and con- 
sequently a much larger quantity of stock reared and fed, and fit- 
ted in a much shorter time for the butcher. After shipping the 
stock at Wick in the morning, it is possible for thom to be shown 
in the Edinburgh market next afternoon ; thus accomplishing in 
the astonishingly short period of thirty hours what used to occupy 
nearly as many days, to the much greater damage of the stock. 

Great as these improvements are, nothing but the want of ca- 
pital prevents their proceeding at a much more rapid rate; and 
were additional encouragement to be given by proprietors, by grant- 
ing leases to the small tenantry on reasonable terms, a great deal 
more might be done, even upon the existing resources of the peo- 
ple. One of the greatest obstacles with which the spirit of im- 
provement has now to contend, is the non-residence of almost all 
the proprietors ; a circumstance which did not exist, to the same 
extent, until very recently ; and hence the same interest can hard- 
ly be expected to be taken, either in promoting the comforts of 
the inhabitants, or in reclaiming or ornamenting the lands. But it 
is hoped that this inconvenience may only be of short duration. 

Fisheries. — There are four descriptions of fisheries prosecuted in 
this parish, viz. the herring, cod, salmon, and lobster. Of these 
tbo herring-fishery is the most considerable, forming as it does. 

LATHERON. ' 101 

the principal source whence the revenue of the parish is derived. 
This fishing commences about the middle of July, when the her- 
ring usually make ^their appearance in small shoals on the coast, 
and continues till the middle of September. Great numbers of 
young men come from Assynt in Sutherlandshire, and Lochbroom 
and Lewis in Ross-shire, to engage as hired hands. They are 
employed by the owners of the boats to make up the boats' crew 
along with themselves, and receive from L. 3 to L. 4 each, for six 
weeks, besides their victuals. Each boat carries four men, and is 
furnished with from twenty to thirty-eight nets, according to the 
size of the boat. A good boat costs L. 50, and her drift of nets 
L. 76 ; a sum too large for one individual, and consequently there 
are generally two and sometimes more who share in the same boat 
They usually last in a seaworthy state about twelve years, and 
the nets six years. No employment can be prosecuted with great- 
er spirit and assiduity ; and few scenes are more enlivening, both 
on land and water, than it occasions, especially when any measure 
of success attends the labours of the fishermen. The boats usu- 
ally leave the shore from five o'clock to seven o'clock in the after- 
noon, according to the direction of the wind and the distance at which 
the fish are supposed to be found, and shoot their nets about dusk. 
In this state they remain, with the boat attached to each drift by 
means of a head rope, and slowly carried east or west by the tide, 
until about three o'clock the next morning. Then all hands are em- 
ployed in hauling in the nets and fish at the boat's stern, where 
they remain together, dispersed all over the boat, till it comes to 
shore, when they commence the operation of disengaging the fish 
from the meshes of the net, by shaking the nets. This ope- 
ration is frequently performed at the time of hauling the nets, 
should time and the weather permit. The herring being thus 
separated from the nets, are immediately landed and deposit- 
ed in the curing box, where a number of women are engaged in 
gutting and packing them in barrels with salt. Having deli- 
vered their fish, they bundle up their nets, carry them on shore, 
and spread them out carefully one over the other. Here they re- 
main to dry, until taken up again in the afternoon to be used as 
formerly. After securing their boats, they return to their homes, 
take some refreshment, and a few hours repose, as their time per- 
mits, and proceed to take up their nets, and put to sea again for 
the next night's fishing. In this manner they proceed for five suc- 
cessive nights, every week. Sometimes, however, when the quaa- 

102 CAlTUNESS-SillRE. 

tity offish to be delivered is large, they do not get to bed for days 
together. This makes it a very fatiguing and even oppressive em- 
ployment But the prospect of success is so very enticing, that 
it is submitted to with wonderful cheerfulness. 

The boats used in this pari^ may contain from SO to &0 crans 
or barrels (for both are nearly alike,) of herrings, and it is diffi- 
cult to say which of the sights is most pleasingly interesting to 
a stranger, that of beholding on a fine evening the whole coast, 
as far as the eye can reach, covered with human beings in their 
little barks, as they issue forth from every creek, and disperse in 
different directions, full of life ; or that of attending at one of the 
stations in the morning, and witnessing the return of 40, 60, or 
100 boats, all crowding into one credc, most of them, perhaps, 
laden with fish jto the gunwale, and then the scene of bustle and 
animation that succeeds and continues till night ! And what 
ought not to be omitted as being still more delightful to a serious* 
ly contemplative Qiind, it is not unusual, where there are boats 
having individuals of acknowledged piety, for the crew to en- 
gage in worship after shooting their nets. On these occasions 
a portion of a psalm is sung, followed with prayer, and the effect 
is represented as truly solemn and heart-stirring, as the melodious 
strains of the Gaelic music, carried along the surface of the 
waters, (several being similarly engaged,) spread throughout the 
whole fleet. 

But not uufrequently the scene is sadly reversed, for in the 
midst of the joys of life, we often are in death. A storm suddenly 
arises during the night. The boats are all riding quietly at their 
nets and unprepared to meet it. Some endeavour to haul their 
nets, others cut from them, and make for the place of great- 
est shelter, whilst others, afraid to put up sail and encounter it, 
abide by their nets in the hope of the storm's abating. In propor- 
tion to the danger at sea, are the confusion and anxiety on land. 
The shores are instantly crowded by inquiring relatives, hurrying 
from place to place in search of husbands, brothers, or sons. 
Astonishing instances of preservation of^en occur ; but no season 
passes without serious losses to individuals, either of boats, or nets, 
and sometimes of lives. The risks are very great, and the em- 
ployment, even when successful, most trying to the constitution* 

The following presents a pretty correct state of the fishing of 
1688 at the different stations in the parish. The fishing stations 
with the boats attached to each are, Dunbeatb, 76 ; Latheron- 


wheel, 35; Fbrse, 32; Swiney, 10; Lybster, 101; Clytli, 53; 
and East Clyth, 18: in all 325 boats. Connected with these 
there are 1321 fishermen, 106 coopers, 937 women as packers^ 
and 178 labourers, in all 2540 persons, — besides about 50 fish cur- 
ers, miiny of whom take an active part in the business. The 
number of barrels cured at all these stations in 1838^ was 39,093, 
exclusive of the fish cured by the fishermen and others at their 
own houses, which may be estimated at about 2800 barrels,— ^be- 
sides quantities of green fish purchased at all the stations by 
strangers from all parts of the county in exchange for cash) milk^ 
butter, cheese, &c. &c. — say 907. The average price per cran 
of green fish was 9s., and that per barrel when cured, L.I. The 
barrels are made at the different stations, the hemp spun and the 
nets wrought in the fishermen's families during the winter and 
spring months. From all this, it may be conceived what an en- 
grossing and important concern the herring-fishing has become in 
this parish. 

But, notwithstanding these advantages, which are confessedly 
great in a temporal point of view, yet it is very doubtful whether 
they are not more than counterbalanced by the pernicious effects 
upon the morals of the people, which never fail to result from this 
employment, especially the young of both sexes. No doubt the 
sound religious education now becoming so general, has a ten- 
dency to counteract such habits. Indeed, this is already appa- 
rent, and it is to be hoped, if persevered in, will become still more 
so. At all events, as matters now stand, it is evident that the 
failure of the fishing would be attended with the most ruinous con- 
sequences, so that it becomes no less the duty than the interest of 
the landed proprietors, whilst encouraging the fishing, by which 
the value of land has been so greatly enhanced, to afford every 
practicable facility to the diffusion of knowledge, by means of edu- 
cation and religious instruction both to young and old. These 
have ever been found the best safeguards of morality in a country, 
and are the surest means of rearing and pepetuating an enlighten- 
ed, intelligent, and industrious peasantry. 

The cod-fishing is not carried on to any great extent, although 
there are immense quantities to be found on the coast, particu- 
larly at the commencement of the herring fishing. At this pe- 
riod there are a good many caught ; but as soon as the herring ap- 
pear in such numbers as to induce the fishermen to shoot their 
nets, then the cod-fishing is deserted, that of the herring being 


much more proBtable. On an average there may be about 
10,000 cod cured in a season, for which 6d. each may be ob- 

Lobsters also are in great abundance, and frequently many of 
them are taken in boxes; but this trade is little attended to, as the 
herring trade has been the all-engrossing business for many years 

There are two salmon-fishing stations in the parish, viz. al 
Berriedale and Dunbeath, the former belonging to Mr Home of 
Langwell, and the latter to Mr Sinclair of Freswick. At Berrie- 
dale, salmon and grilse are frequently caught in great abundance, 
particularly since the herring-fishing was discontinued there. It 
is rented by the Messrs Hogarth of Aberdeen, and the fishing at 
Dunbeath by Mr Martin of Dundee, the former at L. 275, and 
the latter at L.27. This great difference in rent is chiefly occa- 
sioned by the herring-fishing at the latter place having a ten- 
dency to annoy the fish, and frighten them from the shore. In 
other respects, Dunbeath seems the preferable station, as the chan- 
nel of the river is always open. The fish on both rivers are good ; 
that of Berriedale particularly so. Very few of them are sold in 
the parish, on account of the high price demanded ; salmon Is., and 
grilse 6d. per lb. They are kitted and sent to the London market. 

Raw Produce. — It is difficult to ascertain with accuracy the 
precise amount of raw produce raised in the parish ; but an attempt 
has been made to approach it pretty nearly, though with consider- 
able difficulty, under the following heads : 

Grain of all kinds, about 11,882 qrs. at L.l, 5s. per quarter, L. 14,852 

Potatoes. 4535 bolls, at IDs. per boll, . . 2,267 10 

Turnips, 236 acres, at L.6 per acre, . . 1416 

Hay, meadow and cultivated, 40,300 stones, at 6d. per stone, 1,007 10 

Land in pasture to graze, 3765 cows, at L.l each, . 3,765 

Do. do. 12,000 sheep, at 5s. each, 3^000 

Fisheries — herring, 42,800 crans, at 9s. per cran, . 19,260 

Do. cod, 10,000, at 6d. each, L.250, ; salmon rented at L.302, 552 

Miscellaneous produce not enumerated above, 750 

Total yearly value of raw produce raised, L.46,870 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Market-Town. — There is no market-town in the parish. The 
nearest to it is Wick, the county town, which is at the medium 
distance of twenty miles. Several villages have been projected, 
but none of them have yet arisen to any consequence except Lyb- 
ster, which contains many excellent houses, and a population of 
fully 400 individuals. Several new buildings are now in progress, 
and many of the inhabitants are very respectable. It was com- 


'tnenced by the late proprietor, Lieutenant- General Sinclair, in 
1802 ; but it is^only within the last twenty years that the spirit of 
improyement has been particularly called forth. It is now a ris- 
ing place, and evidently promises to be of considerable conse- 
quence at no very distant period, should the herring*fishing con- 
tinue to floupish, of which there is every prospect. 

Means of Communication. — There are two post-offices in. the 
parish, viz. Dunbeath and Lybster, the former of old establish- 
ment, and the latter more recent. 

The great north road runs from one extremity of the parish to the 
other, a distance of twenty-eight miles along the coast, and is of im- 
mense importance in facilitating the means of communication. The 
mail-coach from Inverness to Thurso has continued to run since 
the completion of this road, about twenty-two years ago. The 
weekly communication by steam from Leith and Aberdeen to 
Wick and Orkney, has considerably lessened the number of pas- 
sengers by the coach. 

The bridges along the Parliamentary and county roads are kept 
in excellent repair. 

Harbours. — Considering the vast importance of this coast in a 
commercial point of view, the great number of vessels that fre- 
quent it in connection with the fisheries, and the many risks to 
which life and property are exposed in consequence of its bold, 
rocky, and exposed character, it is much to be regretted that so 
little has hitherto been done in order to obtain safe and commo- 
dious harbours. With the exception of a neat little pier at Clyth, 
which is occasionally of service in loading vessels in very mode- 
rate weather, the only attempt that has yet been made in this way 
is at Lybster, where the proprietor, T. Frederick Sinclair, Esq. has, 
in a very spirited manner, and at considerable expense, been en- 
gaged for several years, back in providing a harbour for the en- 
couragement of the increasing trade and population of that place. 
This has been effected by running a stone pier of about 300 feet 
in length along the west bank of a rivulet which runs into the sea 
at this place, and which formerly was usually choked up by the 
shifting beach, now confined behind the pier. By this means 
shelter and accommodation have been effected for upwards of one 
hundred boats of from ten to fifteen tons burden, besides admit- 
ting decked vessels of one hundred tons burden. Within the last 
three years, from sixty to eighty of the latter have loaded and dis- 
charged cargoes during the summer arid harvest seasons ; and il 


is supposed that it is practicable, by a small additional outlay, to 
deepen the harbour so as to receive vessels of the necessary ton- 
nage even at low water. The value of such an improvement on 
the coast would be incalculable, considering the thousands of in- 
dividuals engaged in the herring fishing. At present, there is not 
a single place to run to at low water, when vessels or boats are 
suddenly overtaken with a heavy storm, as not unfrequently hap- 
pens, to the great loss of life and property. Dunbeath is also 
remarkably well calculated for a harbour, and in all probability 
the time cannot be &r distant, when something on an extensive 
scale will be attempted there. Nature has done her part admir- 
ably, and it only requires the hand of art to turn her varied re- 
sources to good account. Petitions have this year been numerous- 
ly signed and sent to the Admiralty, praying the appointment of 
a survey of this coast, in order to select one or more of the fittest 
stations with the view of erecting harbours for the protection of 
property, and the lives of the fishermen, now exposed to such im- 
minent hazard. Should these applications succeed, as it is to be 
hoped they eventually will, then a new era will arise with rospect 
to agricultural and commercial pursuits, and it will only requiro 
the united eflbrfs of enterprising and intelligent men to occupy 
the field thus opened up, and call forth a spirit of industry hither- 
to unexampled in this quarter. 

Ecclesiastical State. — The parish church is situated close by the 
sea, and is seventeen miles from the western extremity of the pa- 
rish, eleven miles from the eastern, and ten from the northern ex- 
tremity. It is, however, sufficiently centrical for the population, 
though it must be obvious, from the great territorial extent, that 
comparatively few of the inhabitants, were they solely dependent 
upon it, could derive much benefit on account of the distance to 
which they are removed. The church seems to have been built 
about the year 1734. It received a large addition by way of an 
aisle in lb22, and was, besides, new roofed and new seated. It may 
contain about 900 sitters, and no seat-rents have been demanded 
since it received extensive repairs in 1822. It is one of the larg- 
est and most commodious country churches in the county. The 
only thing wanted to ite comfort is that of having it ceiled above, 
which it is hoped may, ere long, be accomplisjied. 

The manse was built about forty years ago, and is a substantial 
building, with sufficient accommodation. The glebe consists of 
16 acres of arable land. Its extent was a little increased by an 


excambioD about fourteen years ago^ and it may be worth about L.20 
per auDum. The amount of the stipend is 16 chalders, the one-half 
meal and the other barley, with L.10 for communion elements. 

As stated under a former head, there is a Goremment church 
at Berriedale, in the west end of the parish. It was built in 1826, 
and accommodates 300 sitters. The district connected with k 
now forms a quoad sacra parish. In consequence of some of the 
families having been removed since the church was built, it is now 
too remote for the more populous districts connected with it, but 
is, notwithstanding, still very useful ; and were a small church to 
be erected in the eastern quarter, where the minister could preach 
every alternate Sabbath, it would be still more so. There is an 
excellent manse near the church, as also a garden and small 
glebe. Both the latter were furnished by the late proprietor Mr 
Home of Langwell, and are continued by his successor Mr Do- 
nald Home. The stipend, amounting to L. 120, is paid by Govern- 
ment, and the population is fully 1400. There was also a church 
built at the village of Lybster in 1836 by subscription, and the 
district connected with it constituted a parish quoad sacra. It is four 
miles east of the parish church, has a regular minister settled in 
it, and a population exceeding 2500 souls. A manse has not yet 
been built, nor a glebe assigned, but the minister has been pro- 
vided with a good house in the meantime, and a stipend of L.100 
per annum, which is paid from the seat-rents. The church is a 
neat, commodious, and well-finished building, constructed of the 
best materials. It contains 805 sitters, and the contract price was 
L. 830, all of which was cleared off the same year in which the 
house was finished. Its great utility in that district is universally 
acknowledged. All the seats are let, the church crowded, and 
yet the parish church as well attended as formerly. This is the 
only attempt hitherto made, on the Church extension plan, in any 
of the counties north of Inverness, and it has succeeded far beyond 
the most sanguine expectations of its promoters. How long the 
people, who are almost all composed of the poor and working 
classes, may be able to afford seat-rents equal to their minister's 
stipend, must depend upon the future success of the herring- fish- 
ing. It is hoped, however, that Government will ere long see the 
expediency and necessity of appropriating a small sum by way of 
stipend to assist such necessitous places. The proprietors con- 
nected with the district contributed liberally towards its erection, 
as also several others both in and out of the parish, together with 


the whole body of the inhabitants of this and the other parishes of 
the county. It was a favourite measure, in which all felt interest- 
ed; and it would have delighted the writer to record here the 
names of all the principal subscribers, could it be admitted, in tes- 
timony of the grateful sense he entertains of the handsome and 
cordial manner in which bis appeals in behalf of this important 
object were responded to by all classes. 

There is a mission on the establishment of the Society in Scot- 
land for Propagating Christian Knowledge, at Bruan, in the east- 
ern extremity of the parish. This station was formerly connected 
with Berriedale, where the missionary resides. The disjunction 
took place in 1826, when the Government church was erected at 
the latter place. A comfortable manse has been erected at Bruan 
for the missionary, which cost L.2d2, and the expense was defrayed 
by the people connected with the district. A glebe of four acres 
of excellent land was handsomely made over to the mission by the 
late Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, Bart., whose estates are chiefly 
benefited thereby. The mission-house stands on the boundary 
betwixt this parish and Wick, and now accommodates about an 
equal number from each parish. The church is seated for 600. 
The population from both parishes is 1800, and the mission is one 
of the most compact anywhere to be found. The present mis- 
sionary's stipend has recently been augmented to L.100, only L.25 
of which is paid by the Society — the remainder is paid, or at least 
promised, by the people, and raised from the seat-rents as far as 
these can be realized. This district also ought to be made a parish 
quoad sacra^ more especially as it is now completely disjoined from 
the parish church, by that of Lybster intervening betwixt them. 

About 350 of the inhabitants of the interior of the parish are 
connected with the Royal Bounty Mission of Dirlot, in the parish 
of Halkirk, and attend public worship at the meeting-house of 
Halsary, where a new and more suitable house is about to be built, 
and is much needed. 

There are four catechists in the parish. They are appointed 
by the kirk-sessions, with the consent and approbation of the peo- 
ple among whom they labour, and by whom they are paid. There 
are no Dissenting or Seceding chapels in the parish. An attempt 
was made a few years ago to introduce dissent into the village of 
Lybster, where the most strenuous exertions were made and great 
expense incurred by the United Secession body to establish a con- 
gregation, but it has signally failed, and is now given up as hope* 


less. This might have been foreseen from first, as there were no 
members of that or any other Dissenting denomination there, and 
the inhabitants generally neither desired nor countenanced such 
a measure. * With the exception of a few strangers who may 
settle among them, the people are most devotedly and con- 
scientiously attached to the Established Church, to which the 
whole population of 8000 belong, with the exception of about 
twelve families in the eastern extremity of the parish. One, and 
sometimes both the heads of these families usuallv attend the Se- 
cession church at Wick, but the young people belonging to them 
generally attend at the mission of Bruan on Sabbath. Consider- 
ing the poverty of many of the inhabitants, excepting those from, 
the very remote districts where meetings are frequently kept by 
the catechists or others for the convenience of the people, divine 
service is remarkably well attended in the several places of wor- 
ship. On this subject it is recorded, with peculiar satisfac- 
tion, that, within the last few years, a marked improvement has. 
taken place in the attendance of the young, and there is every, 
reason to hope that it will be progressive. This is to be attribut- 
ed not merely to the public exhortations addressed to parents 
from the pulpit, but also to the more than ordinary attention of 
the parochial and other schoolmasters in inculcating this most im- 
portant duty upon their scholars. 

The average number of communicants has varied from 130 to 
180 during the last seven years. The fewness of their number is 
to be ascribed to the feelings of reverential awe with which they 
view this solemn ordinance, and the diflBdence they experience as 
to their being possessed of the necessary qualifications for engag- 
ing in it. 

The yearly collections for the poor may be averaged at L. 52, 
and those for religious purposes at L. 30. 

Education. — Hitherto there has been only one parochial school 
in this extensive parish. There are, however, 14 unendowed and 
three Society schools ; two supported by the General Assembly, 
and one by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Know- 
ledge ; in all 18, besides a few female schools where reading as well 
as needle-work is taught. The languages nnd the higher branches 
of mathematics are taught in the parochial and Assembly's schools, 

• Since the above was written, the United Secession have returned to Lybster, in 
the hope of better success, as the church there is about becoming vacant, by the 
translation of its able and popular minister to the Gaelic Church in Edinburgh. 


when required ; but only the elementary branches in those unen- 
dowed ; and many of the latter, being in remote districts, where the 
people are very poor, are kept open during only six months of the 
year, viz. winter and spring. In all the schools the Scriptures 
are read daily, and the catechisms taught. The salary of the pa* 
rish teacher is the maximum, and the fees may amount to from 
L. 20 to L. 30 a year. That of the Society teachers is from L,2Qf 
to L. 25 each, and their fees from L.8 to L.10. The unendowed 
teachers are by far the worst paid ; their emoluments may average 
from L. 3 to L. 4, including fees, though usually they have their 
victuals in addition. From the smallness of their emoluments it will 
readily be conceived that the acquiremeuts of these teachers can- 
not be great. They are selected from the most talented and pro- 
mising of the scholars in attendance at the parish school, where 
they are again to be found in attendance how soon their own schools 
close in the beginning of summer. Here they spend the sum- 
mer and harvest in revising their former studies, and adding as 
much as possible to their stock of already acquired knowledge. 
By these means they return with fresh vigour and increased re- 
sources to their former stations in winter. Thus they continue to 
advance in the higher branches of education, until qualiBed for the 
Society or even parochial schools. But to these schools again, 
the different districts look for other young men to supply their 
places, so that the district schools are a kind of nurseries for the 
more advanced seminaries, which in their turn liberally repay the 
debt they have incurred. There have been five of these district 
teachers prosecuting their studies most creditably at the university 
for several years back. 

It is proper to notice that there is another parochial school 
being built at Dunbeath, in connection with the Government pa- 
rish of Berriedale. Mr Sinclair of Freswick, at the recommen- 
dation of his curators, has, in the handsomest manner, agreed to 
bear the whole expense of furnishing the necessary accommoda- 
tions. These will at least cost L.300 ; they are upon a scale more 
than ordinarily liberal^ and will be finished this season. The be- 
nefits to result from such an establishment in that quarter, it is 
diflScult to calculate, and the example of Mr Sinclair and his li- 
beral minded curators cannot be too highly recommended. From 
the exertions made in furnishing the means of education, there 
are few of the young who cannot read ; the greater number also 
learn to write ; but among those who are far advanced in life. 


there is a considerable number who can neither read nor writei 
The people in general are certainly alive to the benefits that 
arise from a good education, and therefore make considerable ex- 
ertions, according to their small means, for supporting schools 
among them. No doubt several of the unendowed schools are 
of very inferior quality, as may be expected from the trifling re- 
muneration that some districts can afford, so that what is wanted 
is not so much additional schools as additional salaries, and con- 
sequently better qualified teachers. Without the former, it is 
hopeless to attempt to raise the character of the latter beyond 
what has already been done. There are four stations at least, 
where Society schools could be most advantageously located, and 
for which applications have frequently been made, though hitherto 
without efiect. It has already been observed, that the improve- 
ment in the conduct and morals of the young people is everywhere 
recognized by those who are acquainted with the parish'; and that 
this change is in a great measure to be ascribed to the additional 
facilities and improved system of education, cannot be doubted* 
The proprietors have already done much, and it is to be hoped, 
that the altered state of society for the better will encourage them 
to persevere, until all the scattered hamlets of this extensive and 
populous parish, second perhaps to no landward parish in Scot- 
land, are brought under the influence of a sound, moral, and re- 
ligious education. 

Having already noticed the recent improvements of an agri- 
cultural nature under that head, it may not be improper here to 
enumerate briefly those of an ecclesiastical and educational na- 
ture, which have taken place during the last twenty years, being 
the period of the incumbency of the present writer. The parish 
church, remodelled and greatly enlarged, — a Government church, 
manse, and glebe, established at Berriedale, and that district 
formed into a quoad sacra parish, with a separate minister, — a 
new church built at Lybster, with a separate minister settled 
there, and also formed into a quoad sacra parish, — the mission 
of Bruan, confined to that station, instead of two as formerly, and 
a commodious manse built for the missionary, with a suitable 
glebe attached ; — all of these ministers, actively and laboriously 
engaged in communicating religious instruction, and discharging 
the duties of pastoral superintendence among the people. As to 
education, there has been a new parish school with schoolmaster's 
accommodation erected ; another parochial school in the course 


of erection at Dunbeath ; an Assembly school established at Ber- 
riedale, with schoolmaster's accommodation ; another Assembly 
school similarly provided at Reisgill, together with eight unen- 
dowed schools in different localities; the general qualifications 
of the teachers considerably raised ; the system of teaching Tastly 
improved ; and, consequently, the number of scholars almost in- 
credibly increased : the general average exceeds 1200. But still 
much remains to be done in both departments ; and as it is pleas* 
ing to reflect, that, in carrying forward these improvements, the 
harmony and good understanding subsisting betwixt the heritors 
and the present incumbent, have never been interrupted ; a circum- 
stance not a little creditable to the heritors, considering how many 
demands were necessarily made upon them ; so it is to be hoped 
that the same cordiality and good feeling will be mutually main- 
tained in prosecuting those that are still in contemplation. The 
readiness with which they have promoted these improvements, is 
very commendable. 

Friendly Societies. — There are two of these of long standing, 
one at Dunbeath and the other at Lybster. In many instances 
they have been remarkably useful, both in respect to widows and 
orphans, and also the aged and infirm ; but for several years back, 
they have not been becoming more flourishing, either as to members 
or funds. However, it is to be hoped that they may yet revive. 

Poor and Parochial Funds. — The number of persons at present 
on the poor's roll is 202 ; each of whom only receives at the rate 
of from 4s. to 8s. at the time of distribution, which is once a-vear. 
Such of them as are able, make their rounds through the parish 
occasionally, in order to obtain aid from those families whose cir- 
cumstances enable them to assist them ; and those that are bed- 
ridden or infirm have assistance sent them by the charitable and 
well disposed around them. There beingno parochial assessment, 
the collections made at the church doors, together with the inte- 
rest arising from a few benefactions, furnish the funds from which 
the poor receive the small pittance which can be assigned them. 
The average church collections may amount to L. 52 yearly, and 
the interest from benefactions to L. 18. The latter consist of 
L. 100, left many years ago, by the late Rev. Dr James Oswald 
of Glasgow ; L. 100 by the late John C. Sutherland, Esq. of 
Forse in this parish ; L. 100 by Conductor Sutherland of North 
America ; and L. 40 by Mr Alexander Finlaysou Macdonald of 
same place. Much to the credit of the poorer classes, they very 


generally manifest a strong disinclination to seek relief from the 
poor's funds. There is a degree of virtuous pride, as well as 
strong natural affection very prevalent, which induces the children 
to support their aged and infirm parents to the utmost of their abi- 
lity ; and when applications are made for parochial relief, the 
cases are usually found to be very necessitous. This feeling is 
always encpuraged, and its opposite discountenanced by the kirk- 
session, by every possible means. Hence, in ordinary seasons, 
very few indeed apply for certificates of poverty ; and it is truly as- 
tonishing among such a large population, almost solely composed 
of the poorer classes, how very few are to be met with, asking cha- 
rity. The numbers of this description from the south are very 
great, and generally of very indifferent character ; but resolutions 
have recently been entered into by the county gentlemen, with a 
view of checking this great grievance, which, it is hoped, will have 
the desired effect. No year passes without many gross deceptions 
being practised upon the unsuspecting inhabitants, by designing 
persons of this description. . 

Fairs. — There are four fairs held in the parish for general pur- 
poses, two at Dunbeath and two at Lybster, during the year. 

/n7W.^There are not fewer than 26 public-houses, for retail- 
ing spirits, &c. in the parish, when six would have been quite 
sufficient for every necessary purpose. 

PueL — Almost all the fuel used consists of peats. The ex- 
pense attending its manufacture and carriage makes it ultimately 
very little cheaper than coal ; only, it is more convenient, being 
always at hand. 

October 1840. 


The following is a list of the Ministers of the parish : — 1637^ 
Gilbert Anderson; Mr Munro; 1652, John Ross, translat- 
ed to Inverness in 1663; 1667, Niel Beaton, died 1715; 1717, 
Andrew Sutheriand, died 1732; 1734, James Brodie, died 1773; 
1775, Robert Gun, died 1819; 1820, George Davidson. 

There are no Crown teinds in Latheron; but there are unap- 
propriated teinds belonging to other persons, which amount to 
nearlv L.400. 






I. — Topography and Natural History. 
NamCi S;c. — The name of the parisli is supposed to be derived 
from a Danish word signifying a valley. Its extent is 7 miles in 
length and 3 in breadth. 

IL — Civil History. 

State of Property and Antiquities^ ^c. — The boundary of the 
parish was Formerly, in the greater part of its extent, the boundary 
of distinct properties. 

The estates of Tister (formerly written Thuspisteer,) and 
NurthGeld, in this parish, connected with Durran, in the parish 
of Ulrick, had belonged to the family of Mr Sinclair Worth of 
Durran. Both of these estates are now the property of the Earl 
of Caithness. 

The property of Lyth, in this parish, separated by a burn only 
from How and Myreland, in the parish of Wick, belongs to Mr Sin- 
clair of Barrack. That of Bowermaddon, and half of Mursav, 
in this parish, have been added to Tain and Hoy, in the parish of 

The boundary of Bowermaddon and Mursay was supposed to 
extend to the burn of Amatan ; and the intervening house and 
farm of Hartfield is partly in this parish, and partly in that of 
Dunnet. The mills on these two last have been pulled down, 
and a new one erected in place of them, on the boundary of 

The estate of Scarmclet, on the south-west side of this parish, 
has been acquired by Sir R. Ansti*uther, and added to his property 
of Dunn, in the parish of Watten, and improved by a new farm 
at Blackcarn, beyond Larel, and a steading of buildings at Bleedy- 
quoy, and the erection of an excellent new mill. On the pre- 
mises on which the old mill stood. Sir Ralph Anstruther has 
caused a i^chool-house to be built. 

BOWER. 115 

The improvements formerly begun on the estates of Scarm- 
clet and Clayock, by the late Lieutenant- Colonel Benjamin 
Williamson of Banneskirk, have been considerably advanced by 
Sir Ralph Anstruther, by the erection of new farms and stead- 
ings, and dividing the possessions of the tenants by ditches 6 feet 
wide by 3 feet deep, which preclude the encroachments of cattle, 
and lay the land dry. Mr Henderson of Stempster has inclosed 
many acres 'by ditches, and improved his property by digging marl 

The estate of Brabsterdorran (said once to have belonged to 
the earldom of Caithness) was lately, acquired from that of South 
Dunn, by Colonel Stewart of Strath, and resold to David Hen- 
derson, younger of Stempster : it is now more than four or five 
times the value of what it was wlien it belonged to the late Mrs 
Henrietta Sinclair Wemyss of South Dunn. 

The improvements begun on it by General Stewart, by the 
erection of a dwelling and offices on the site of the old mansion, 
some hedging, draining, and road-making, have been further ad- 
vanced, and the mains enlarged, with extended tillage, fallowing, 
and enclosures with stone ^and turf dikes, as also drains ; on the 
Mains, there were added a steading of offices, and a thrashing-mill 
driven by water, besides a new farm at lower Gillock, bounding 
with Lower Scarmclet and Quoynce. 

On the hill-ground to the east, beyond Brabster and Lister, at 
nearly equal distance from Brabster, Campster, and Belster of 
Lord Caithness's property, is placed the standing-stone called 
Stone Ludd, which, by an old tradition, is supposed to be the me- 
morial of a battle fought and gained. 

Torfaeus mentions a fight begun in the moss of Skitten, (paludi^ 
bits Skidensibus^) now oftener called Kilmster, by two brothers for 
the Earldom of Caithness, — Liotus, the elder, being supported in 
his right by the King of Norway, — Scullius, the younger, being aid- 
ed by the King of Scotland. It is said that the younger was slain 
in battle, and buried in Hofn, probably Stone Hone, near Wat- 
ten ; and that the elder, victorious brother, was mortally wounded. 
It is not improbable that the stone was raised as a memorial of 
Liotus, the Earl of Caithness and Orkney, in the tenth century. 

The lands of Bowertower and Auckhorn, Seater, Hastigrow, 
Kirk, and Stanstill, with Whitegan, belong to David Sinclair 
Wemyss of South Dunn, and still make up the highest share of the 
valuation of the parish. The mansion-house of Stanstill is let to a 


tenant, with the mains enlarged, and a new square of offices, and 
thrashing-mill driven by horses. 

The estate of Thura was, within the last forty years, purchas- 
ed by the late William Sinclair, Esq. of Freswick. It is now the 
property of his son. The Mains have been lately improved by 
drains and extended enclosures. 

Among the improvements in this parish, those carried on by 
John Sinclair of Barrack, on the property of Lyth and Alterwall, 
may be reckoned the greatest He has added several hundred 
acres to the land in his own possession, laid much ground dry, 
multiplied enclosures, and on some of the pastures for sheep added 
wire fences, besides erecting a new mansion-house, and squares of 

III. — Population. 

Population by census uf 1801, - 1572 

1811, . 1478 

1821, - 1486 

1881, - 1615 

Number of families in the parish in 1831, • . . 296 

chiefly engaged in agriculture, 161 
in trade, manufactures, or handicraft, . 19 

IV. — Industry. 
Agriculture. — All that the writer has to observe on this subject 

will be found under the head Civil History of this Account. 

V. — Parochial Economy. 

Ecclesiastical State. — Amount of stipend, 14 chalders. Value 
of the glebe per annum, L.5. There are only six Dissenting or 
Seceding families in the parish. 

Education. — There are four schools in the parish, one of which 
is parochial, and another a General Assembly's school. The sa- 
lary of the parochial master, including the amount of an equiva- 
lent for garden, is L.3d, 1 6s. 2d., and his school fees may amount 
to L.14 per annum. 

Poor and Parochial Funds. — Average number of poor for the 
three years 1835-56-37, — 53. Average amount of the sum dis- 
tributed for their support, L.18, l4s. 9d. This consists of church 
collections, and interest of Dr Oswald's legacy of L.100. 

October 1840. 





I. — Topography and Natural History. 

Name, — The vocable toic in Danish, Saxon, and other northern 
languages of Gothic origin, signifies a corner^ a flexure^ n bending 
reach in a river, a bay. Hence the derivation of Wick, formerly 
spelled Weik, which has always been the name of this parish, is 
obvious. A well-defined and rather beautiful little wicy or bay, 
which, no doubt, formed a comparatively safe and commodious 
harbour to the Danish and Norwegian pirates* of ancient days, 
communicated its appellation to the village which gradually rose 
on its northern shore ; and, finally, the name was extended to the 
whole parochial district which, ultimately, became connected with 
the town. 

Extent. — The parish of Wick is 15J miles in extreme length 
from north to south ; its average breadth is about 5 miles ; and its 
superficial extent may be estimated at 77 square miles, or 61,600 
imperial acres. 

Boundaries, — The parish of Wick is bounded, on the south by 
the parish of Latheron ; on the south-west, by the parish of 
Wattin ; on the north-west, by the parish of Bower ; on the 
north, by the parish of Canisbay ; and on the east, by the Moray 

Coast, — The coast of this parish presents along its line, which 
is about twenty-six miles in length, a great variety of features. Near 
the northern extremity, on the townland, or estate of Nybster, it 
is formed by lofty rugged rocks. These are succeeded by gently 
sloping fields, on the northern limit of the Bay of Keiss. Almost 
the whole of the shore on the bosom of this capacious bay is low, 

* The northern pirates received the name of Vikingr^ that is bay-men, because 
they lurked in the tificgy or bays. Wick is yet in use in the Scottish dialect, as the 
wick o' the mouth, the wick o* the ee. 


and formed of flinty sand. Towards the southern side, it is com. 
posed of comminuted shells. The coast now becomes bold and 
rocky till it reaches the Noss, or, as it is usually, but tauto- 
logically, styled, Noss-Head. From Noss to Staxigoe it is 
composed of lofty, black, and fugged rocks, which are continued 
with more or less of the same savage character to Proudfoot, the 
northern side of the entrance to the Bay of Wick* At the Head 
of Wick, opposite to Proudfoot, the same kind of rugged, rocky 
coast recommences, and continues, with but trifling interruptions, 
till it passes beyond the southern boundary of the parish. On the 
coast of the parish of Wick, there are numerous goes^'* or small 
inlets of the sea, with steep and rocky sides. Commencing at 
the south side of Keiss Bay, the principal of these, between it 
and Noss-Head, are Braidgoe; Caldersgoe; Sclatygoe; Ruthigoe; 
Girnigoe, crowned with the hideous ruins of Castle Sinclair and 
Girnigoe, the principal ancient baronial stronghold of the Sinclain;, 
Earls of Caithness ; Manigoe, supposed to be properly Moneygoe, 
because it is reported, and the fact, that in it several parcels of base 
copper coins have at different times been found, corroborates the 
tradition, that Earl George the Wicked entertained in it one 
Smith, a coiner of bad money ; Sandygoe ; and Mursligoe, the 
cove frequented by seals. An entrance from this goe leads under 
a small rock, by a dry passage, into an immense cavern under 
Noss-Head. Between this headland and Broad Haven, are 
Staxigoe, so called from some Stacks, or detached rocks, which 
rise above the sea at its entrance ; and Eltrigoe. Papigoe lies in 
the Bay of Wick. A passage is said to lead a considerable way 
from the sea, to a small knoll called the Pap, whence the name 
of Papigoe. 

On the shore to the south of Wick Bay, lies a black and frightftil 
chasm, on which stands the dismantled tower of Auld Wick. At 
sea, this ruin forms an excellent landmark, and is by sailors called 
the Aul' Man o' Wick. Southward from Auld Wick is the Burgh 
of Hempriggs, so called from its having been in very ancient times 
the site of a bruchy or fort, the traces of which are still visible. 
It forms a small fishing haven. In the mouth of it stand the 
Stacks of Hempriggs. The principal of these is an immense 
outstanding rock, perforated from side to side, and from top to 
bottom ; the resort, in the breeding season, of innumerable sea- 

• This ancient relic of Norwegian colonization is pronounced in one syllable, 
with the ff bard, as if written g^oet. 

WICK. 119 

fowl ; atid always of a pair or two of merlin hawks. The Brig o 
Tram, Craig- Ammel, Brickigoe, and Falligoe, near the southern 
termination of the parochial coast, are some of its more interesting 

Keiss Bay, called also Reiss Bay, from the townland of Reiss» 
which lies upon it ; Ackergill Bay, from the noble Tower of Acker- 
gill, which stands on its shore, and likewise Sinclair Bay, from 
the neighbourhood of Castle Sinclair and Gimigoe ; and the Bay 
of Wick are the only two bays on the coast The former is by 
far the larger. Ships have often been stranded on its shore. 
This has arisen from its having been mistaken for the eastern en- 
trance of the Pentland Frith. A lighthouse ought to be erected 
on Noss-Head. 

This dangerous promontory, Proudfoot, the Head of Wick, 
and Ulbster Head, are the most important headlands on the 

Surface. — The surface of the parish of Wick is in general flat, 
or but very gently sloping in different directions. The northern 
parts generally face the south, and the southern have a northern and 
north-eastern exposure, as shown by the run of the water. Its aspect 
is bleak, unpicturesque, and tame. The heights of Yarrows and 
Camster, towards the south-west of the parish, are the only hills 
deserving of the name. Their elevation above the sea is conside- 
rable ; but their appearance is dull and heavy. 

A spacious valley, forming the fertile strath of Stirkoke, stretches 
in a westerly direction from the Bay of Wick to the Loch of Wat- 
tin, — a distance of about twelve miles, without ever attaining an 
elevation of more than 60 feet above the level of the sea. Half 
a mile above Wick, a similar valley, running southwards in a cir- 
eumlinear direction, and keeping nearly parallel to the sea coast, 
but bending a little more to the west, arrives at a somewhat greater 
elevation at its southern extremity, than the former. Another val- 
ley, containing thcdeep and extensive moss of Kilminster, separates 
the parishes of Wick and Bower. 

Meteorology. — The climate of this parish is that of the whole of 
Caithness, — very windy, humid, and variable. The average num- 
ber of days in the year with rain is 190 ; with snow, 36i ; and with 
frost, 35. The fall of rain is pretty equally distributed through- 
out the twelve months. The quantity of rain that fell in 1840, 
from the 1st of January to the 3lst of December inclusively, was 
as follows : — 


Montln. Inches. Mooths. Inches. Months. ^"^^'S 

January, - 4.85 May. - 2.86 SfP^T*^'' ' ^f^ 

Kehruiy, • 1.56 June. - 1.99 October^ - ^18 

March/ . .78 July. - 3 JJ^^*"^'' " f^i 

April, - .97 August. . 2.43 December, - 1.74 

Total, 35 inches and 29 decimal parts, or rather more than one- 
fourth of an inch. 

Fogs, which are often very dense and wetting, generally come 
from the east They seldom last above an hour or two. This is 
owing to the breezy character of the weather, The days with fog 
amount in the year to 35. Westerly winds prevail. The winter 
is in general windy. In the beginning and the fall of the year, it 
is often exceedingly tempestuous. The following table, calculated 
fwm observations made for several years, will give some intimation 
of the various atmospherical conditions of the climate of this part 
of Scotland. 

Barometer. Spring. Summer. Autumn. Winter. 

Mean average, - 30.04 30.12 30.05 29.94 


30.85 30.80 30.70 30.70 

Lowest, - - 29 00 29.40 28.90 28.90 

Range, - - 180 1.85 1.40 1.80 


Mean average, - 47'' 564« 56" 65« . 

Highest, . - 58 70i 65 55 

Lowest, - - 32 52 44 33 

Range, . - 26 184 21 22- 

Prevailing winds, S.£. to S. W. to N. S.E. to S. S. to N. W. 

&N.W. &N.E. & N.W. 

Days with rain. - 42 50 51 47 

Days with snow, • 184 ^ ^ 16 

Days with frost, .14 1 20 

Days with fog, - 8 9 6 8 

It appears from this table that the range of the barometer is least 
in summer, and of almost equal extent in the other three quarters, 
and that of the thermometer is nearly equal throughout the year ; 
the greatest range of each instrument being in spring. The range 
of the prevalent winds in winter is very circumscribed. In spring 
and autumn, they go round half the compass, and in the same 
direction firom south-east by south to north-west. In summer, 
their range is also limited, but not to such a degree as in 

The winters are becoming milder and more open than they for- 
merly were. The number of days in the year with frost, and of 
those with snow, is decreasing. This present winter, however, has 
been very severe ; much more so, indeed, than any preceding win- 

WICK. 121 

ter in the memory of the oldest inhabitants. Snow seldom falls 
for more than a day, or lies above two days, at a time. Thunder 
is very rare. It generally occurs at a great distance ; and light- 
ning seldom strikes or does any injury. 

In 1784, a halo, ^^ superbly bright and luminous, consisting of 
two bows, concentric, with an apparent interval of from three to 
four feet between them, and extending over a great part of the 
hemisphere, was distinctly seen." ♦ What are usually called fall- 
ing stars are frequently seen shooting across the nocturnal sky. 
The polar lights are visible almost every night, and generally pre- 
vent it from ever being very dark. 

Diseases. — Fevers, rheumatism, pleuritis, catarrh, cough, inflam- 
mation of the throat, are amongst the most numerous of the diseases. 
Pulmonary consumption is not frequent amongst adults ; but in- 
fants with any weakness about the chest are generally carried off in 
childhood by hooping-cough, which is often very general and fatal, 
or by different pectoral affections. Rheumatism was not common 
till about the beginning of the present century, when the homely 
warm woollen clothing of olden times began to give place to the 
flimsier though gayer cotton dresses, which are now very generally 
worn. Itch is exceedingly prevalent among the children. The 
kind of food on which the lower orders chiefly subsist, the state of 
their habitations, the scantiness of their clothing, and their indif- 
ference to cleanliness, along with the contagious nature of the 
complaint, sufiiciently account for this. Fever of a typhoid type 
is seldom absent from one lane or other in the burgh of Wick, 
Louisburgh, and Pulteneytown, whence it breaks out, and becomes 
epidemic in the neighbouring country. It is generally most acute 
soon after the close of the fishing -season. Nor is it difficult to 
account for its severity at that period. During the fishing there 
are not fewer than 10,000 persons added to the ordinary popula- 
tion of the place ; and these are necessarily crowded together, 
sometimes to the number of ten or twelve, in one small room. 
This circumstance, taken in connection with the great consump- 
tion of spirits, and the very filthy state of the houses, shores, and 
streets, with putrescent effluvia steaming up from the fishoffals 
lying everywhere about, render it a wonder that typhoid diseases 
are not much more prevalent. The shortness of the fishing-sea- 

* Statistical Account, Vol. x. p. 31. 


son, the greater supply of food) and the state of excitement and 
activity in which all connected with the fishing live during the 
period of its continuance, are no doubt the great counteracting 
preservatives. Indigestion, arising from the almost exclusive vege- 
table food of the commonalty, is very frequent The small ten- 
ants, especially the females, are perhaps most liable to this com- 
plaint ; which seems to be on the increase. Small-pox is seldom 
long absent from the parish, and is often very fetal. Great numbers 
of the people have a strange antipathy to vaccination. They brand 
it as a tempting of Providence ; whereas their rejection of this 
preservative is this sin. British cholera is endemic and epi- 
demic, and often makes its appearance, especially in the latter 
form. It is never fatal in ordinary circumstances. Pestilential 
cholera visited Wick during the fishing season of 1632, a short 
while after its appearance at Thurso. The number of cases re- 
ported Umounted to 306, of which 66 proved fatal. 

From various calculations it appears, that the proportion of sick- 
ness in the difierent sexes gives 141^ females to 100 males. Under 
twenty years of age, more males are sick than females ; between 
twenty and seventy more females than males; and above the lat- 
ter age, they are equal. The proportion of sickness, to such a 
degree as to demand medical attention, is about 5^ or 6 per 
cent, of the population.* The deaths are, about 20 per cent, of 
the sick. 

Instances of great longevity are not uncommon. There is at 
present an old lady, resident in the burgh, who has entered into her 
101st year, and an uld fanner, in the landward part of the parish, 
who has entered into his 102d. Both these venerable persons are 
in the perfect possession of all their mental and bodily faculties. 

Maniacs are very rare. Idiots and fatuous persons are remark- 
ablv common. 

A singular lusus naturaj which occurred in the person of a child 
■in the neighbourhood of Wick, about eighteen years ago, may 
here be mentioned. This child had a perfect eye on the back of 
the head. It lived for two years ; and it is evident had the use of 
the supernumerary organ, from its never allowing a cap to be 
kept over it 

Hydroyraphy. — It is needless to describe the well-known stormy 
Moray Frith, which, as has already been said, forms the eastern 
boundary of the parish of Wick. 

WICK. 123 

Tbe^ burns of Slickly, StaDstill^ and Kilmiaster contribute to 
supply the Loch of Wester, which lies within three-quarters of a 
mile of the shore of Keiss Bay. This loch is about a mile long and 
a third of a mile broad. Its outlet forms the River or Water of 
Wester, which, after a winding course, flows into the Bay of Keiss. 
On the very highest ground of Noss-Head is the Loch of Noss, 
which, notwithstanding its elevated situation, and though no streani- 
lets fall into it, is seldom if ever dry. The Loch of Kilminster lies 
in the middle of the moss of that name, and does not exceed 
three-fourths of a mile in breadth. The Loch of Winless is to 
the south of the Loch of Kilminster. The waters of both fall into 
the River of Wick. 

The River of Wick, by far the largest stream in the parish, is 
the outlet of the beautiful Loch of Wattin, in the parish of that 
name. It lazily flows in a south-easterly direction through the 
rich and loamy strath of Stirkoke, till, after a winding course of 
eleven or twelve miles, about nine of which are within the parish 
of Wick, which it divides into two parts of almost equal extent, 
it disembogues itself into Wick Bay. Its average breadth is about 
thirty feet ; but in rainy seasons, it overflows its banks, and over- 
floods the strath through which it winds. The principal stream- 
lets which it receives within the parish of Wick from the north, are 
the Burn of Winless, which issues from the loch of that name, 
the streamlet which flows from the Loch of Kilminster and Alti- 
marlach, close on the west side of the upper glebe. 

On the south side, the Burn of Bilbster is the first considerable 
streamlet which the River of Wick receives within the parish. The 
Burn of Hauster collects the greater part of its waters on the north 
and east of Camster, a townland belonging partly to Wick and 
partly to Latberon, (one of its sources being the little moss- fed 
Loch of Carnlia) ; and after a sweeping course of eight miles around 
the south side of Stirkoke, falls into the same river, upwards of 
three miles below the Burn of Bilbster. In the north end of the 
Moss of Tannach is Loch Dhu, three-quarters of a mile in cir- 
cumference. Its outlet falls into the Burn of Hauster. Half a 
mile to the south of Loch Dhu, lies the Loch of Hempriggs, about 
a mile in length from north to south, and more than half a mile 
in breadth. The natural outlet of this loch is the Burn of New- 
ton, which falls into the River of Wick, bejow the Burn of Haus- 
ter : but a lade, which has been cut from it, carries a runnel of 


water of fifty horse-power into' Pulteney town for various industrial 
purposes. This loch is supplied chiefly from the Loch of Yar- 
rows, two miles and a half distant to the south-west, into which 
runs the water of the drained Loch of Brickigoe. Two trifling 
lochs, one of which is named Wairows, among the hills of Yar- 
rows, send out, towards the sea, a little stream, which divides into 
two streamlets, one of which runs into the Loch of Sarclet, lying 
half-way between Sarclet and Ulbster House; and the other 
falls into the sea at Falligo, southwards of Ulbster. The Loch of 
Sarclet, which is not above three-fourths of a mile in circumfe- 
rence, discharges its waters into the sea, a little to the south of 
the village of that name. The waters of the valley of Camster 
fall away, to the south, into the parish of Latheron. 

Except a few rather pretty braes towards the mouth of the River 
of Wick, the scenery, both on the loclis and on the brooks of the 
parish, is as tame and unpicturesque as it possibly can be. Most 
of the well-water of the parish of Wick is impregnated with lime 
or iron. Chalybeate springs of considerable strength occur a 
little to the south of the Castle of Auld W^ick, and on the face of 
a low bank to the north of Proudfoot, the north-eastern extremity 
of the Bay of Wick. 

Geohgy, — Of the hilly ranges on the south and west of the pa- 
rish, the formation is principally composed of grey wack^ and grey- 
wacke slate, with a few limestones, sandstones, &c. Towards the 
summit of the Yarrows Hills, a gneissy formation abounds. With 
these exceptions, the rock-formations of this parish consist almost 
entirely of the coarser kinds of the clay-slate or flagstone, so pre- 
valent in the flatter grounds of Caithness. This is an immense 
formation of alternating beds of silicious and calcareo-silicious flag- 
stone or slate-clay ; dark, foliated, bituminous limestone ; pyri- 
tous shale ; sandstone, &c The silicious beds predominate in 
the lowest position in this formation, and the calc^reo- bituminous 
bed gives the type to the intermediate part, becoming more silici- 
ous and arenaceous at the upper posture, and so graduating into 
the superior division. The aggregate thickness of these deposits 
is very greaL 

The clifis along the coast to the north of Keiss are chiefly com- 
posed of grey, brown, and greenish sandstone in thin layers, alter- 
nating with pyritous shale, which disappear in the Bay of Keiss. 
At the Castle of Girnigoe, there is a remarkable section of the 

WICK. 125 

dark-bluish calcareous flagstone, wbich continues along the coast 
to the cliffs southwards of the burgh of Wick. This deposit dif- 
fers from the general formation of the district in being in thicker 
beds, on which account it is much used in building. The stratal 
dip is generally to the north-east, with, however, numerous inter- 

Of the cliffs to the south of the Bay of Wick, the stratal 
dip is in the same direction, and the flagstone is surmounted 
by soft greenish micaceous shale and sandstone. The opera? 
lions near the southern side of the new harbour of Pulteneytown 
have brought into view a very singular disposition of the superior 
recumbent detritus. This, for the space of about 100 yards, is 
composed of large stones, huddled together like the rubbish of a 
quarry. The bank of fine bluish clay, resting upon this, is of con- 
siderable height. Imbedded in it,, and near its summit, lies a con- 
spicuous mass of coarse-grained dark-grey granite, of perhaps 
twenty tons in weight. It has been blasted with gunpowder, and 
various idle attempts have been made, but happily without success, 
to destroy this huge and remarkable boulder. A similar granitic 
boulder is found opposite, on the northern side of the bay. These 
are the only specimens known of this kind of stone in the parish ; 
and they bear evident marks of having been rolled along by some 
mighty current. 

Farther along the coast, on the south side of Wick Bay, nearer 
the Castle of Auld Wick, where the sea-cliffs are above thirty feet 
in height, and far above the reach of the high tide, the uppermost 
strata have been deranged by some mighty force directed upon 
them from the Moray Frith. Enormous masses of rock have been 
broken off from their beds, and thrown upon one another in most 
terrific confusion. One prodigious mass has been heaved from its 
bed below, and placed upon a similar rock immediately above, on 
which it is supported by a small stone between them, so that a 
person can walk beneath it. 

About four miles to the south of Wick, the line of bearing of 
the schistose rocks is altered ; and from a point near Ulbster, 
where they begin to dip in an inland or westerly direction, a great 
change is observable in the physical character of the country. 

Fossil Organic Remains. — Ichthyolites are universally spread 
over this extensive deposit ; and their occurrence is not confined 
to one particular stratum, but is characteristic of this vast schis* 


tose formation, from the lowest to the highest beds. They have 
been found at Wester, near Keiss Bay, and elsewhere. These stone- 
fish occur in beds of dark-gray calcareous schist, highly bitumi- 
nous and micaceous* In general, the animal rfoiains are easily 
distinguishable from the imbedding matrix by their dark colour. 
Professor Agassiz, the celebrated naturalist, who has devoted so 
much of his time to the study of fossil fishes, has determined, and 
for the first time, with accuracy, the characters of our Caith- 
ness species. 

Minerafagy, — Minerals are not abundant The laminated beds 
of the rock-formatfon are, over all the parish, much intersected by 
symmetrical joints and fissures, which are filled up in numerous in- 
stances with trap. This often has the direct effect of altering 
the stratal inclination, and indeed of twisting and contorting it in 
all imaginable directions. Quartz or felspar likewise often fills up 
these fissures ; the smaller of which are sometimes occupied en- 
tirely with calc-spar. The clay-slate contains many varied pyrites. 
At Staxigoe there is a vein of ironstone. Running down into the 
harbour of this village, there is a vein of lead-ore imbedded in fel- 
spar. Between Staxigoe and Broad Haven are several small veins 
of copper-ore. At the latter village there is a pretty good appear- 
ance of alum-rock. Immediately to the south of the Castle of 
Auld Wick, is the best vein of copper in the parish. It was wrought 
about eighty years ago by a company of miners, who carried off 
several ship loads of ore; but, having found a better vein in l^het- 
land, it was abandoned ; but not, however, before they secured 
themselves against competition, by taking a lease of it from 
the proprietor. Sulphate of barytes occurs on the coast opposite 
to the House of Ulbster, and is in some places three feet thick. 

In the immediate neighbourhood of the Tower of Ackergill, 
there is a considerable vein of a kind of parrot-coal, which emits 
a bright flame in burning, but is not reduced to ashes. 

Marl of various qualities abounds in this parish. The draining 
of the loch of Brickigoe has made accessible a bed of most excel- 
lent marl of 20 feet in depth. 

The soil varies in different places. The moss at the foot of the 
hills of Yarrows, the one between Sarcletand Ulbster; the Moss 
of Tannach, and the Moss of Kilminster, the last of which is many 
feet in depth and of great extent, — are the principal deposits of 
peat-earth In the parish of Wick. 


WICK. 127 

From three to four hundred acres in the strath of Stirkoke are 
covered to the depth of from three to five feet, with an alluvial and 
loamy soil, which has evidently been brought by the River of Wick 
in repeated fldbds from the parish of Wattin. This track is one 
of the richest meadows for the grazing of cattle in Caithness, hut 
is subject to frequent inundations. On the banks of the Hauster 
Water, and, in several other places, a deep covering of detritus 
and shale is to be met with. These contain many fragmentary 
remains of ostraceous shells, which are found at a height of from 
100 to 150 feet above the level of the sea. 

Though the soil is in some places light and sandy, and in other 
places rich and loamy, yet m by far the greater part of the parish 
it consists of a stiff hard clay, produced by the decomposition of 
the clay-slate. In general, the subsoil is composed of a close, 
retentive, gravelly clay, mixed with fragments of slate not yet de- 
composed, and resting on the surface of the flagstone or clay-slate. 
This construction retains the moisture which, along with the hu- 
midity of the climate, renders the soil not merely damp, but in 
many places wet, and thus offers the greatest obstacle to the im* 
provement of the land. 

Botany, — The two Scottish heaths. Erica cinereay heather, and 
E, tetralixy bell-heather, abound on the moors. A purely white 
variety of the former is occasionally found. The bilberry, Vac- 
cihium myrtillus^ blaeberry ; the Empetrum nigrum^ cranberry ; 
the black bear-berry, Arbutus alpiiia ; and the red bearberry, A. 
Uva ursi^ may likewise be found on heathery banks and heights. 
Myrica gale^ the Scottish myrtle, is occasionally found shedding 
its agreeable perfume across an impassable bog. One of the 
most elegant of our indigenous flowers, the birds'-eye primrose. 
Primula farinosa^ called also from its flowering in April and Au- 
gust, Primula Scotivoy the Scottish primrose, adorns, with its 
lovely little purple flowers, the savage heights of the coast of the 
Moray Frith. It is also called the powdered beau, from the white 
dust which plentifully covers the under side of the petals. The 
primrose, Primula veris, is found on the burn sides. A very 
dwarB.^h species of willow may be met with creeping among 
the heather in wet places. Orchidaceous flowers, baldairies, in 
great variety abound. The Links of Keiss are begemmed in the 
season with the beautiful little white flower of Parnassus, Pamas* 
sia palustris. White and red clovers are indigenous ; the former 


often springs up spontaneously on grounH which has never been 
cultivated, when a little lime may have fallen upon it, or it may 
have been casually turned up by the wheel of a cart or the plough. 
This is also the case with a species of hearts-ease*. The tubers 
of Orobus tuberosus^ knappards or caperoilie, which have a sweetish 
taste, somewhat like that of liquorice, are sometimes chewed. to 
allay hunger. Corncockle, Agrostemma GithagOy which has but 
very lately made its appearance in this quarter ; betony, B. offi* 
cinalisj found, though but dwarfish, on the road sides ; ground- 
ivy, Glechoma hederacea ; and foxglove, Digitalis purpurea^ 
found near Thrumster, are of comparatively rafe occurrence. 
The last plant is provincially called dead merCs bells, and has many 
superstitions connected with it. But the rarest plant in the parish 
of Wick was the white water-lily, Nymphcsa alba, which was found 
only in one spot in all the county of Caithness. This was the 
Loch of Brickigoe, on the estate of Thrumster. But some time 
ago this loch was drained for marl, and the pride of the Catha- 
ncnsian Flora destroyed. Roots, however, were taken from the 
Loch of Brickigoe, and planted in a pond near the House 
of Stirkoke, and at different places in the county of Caith- 

Lichens in great variety, and often of great beauty, clothe the 
rocks and stones in all parts of the parish. The rein-deer lichen, 
Z/. rangiferinusi grows to the height of about three or four inches 
among the heather. 

Woods. — There are at present no natural woods in the parish. 
Trees have been planted to a considerable extent around the 
houses of Hempriggs, Stirkoke, and Thrumster ; but neither the 
climate nor the soil is congenial to their growth, and they do not 
thrive. Elder is excepted ; almost everywhere it flourishes amaz- 
ingly. Quickset hedges have, in many places, been trained into 
good fences. 

But though the parish of Wick is at present destitute of natural 
wood, such does not appear to have been always the case. It is 
said, that, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, the hills 
of Yarrows were covered with copse-wood, which was destroyed 
by fire, for the purpose of expelling the wolves, with which the 
place was infested. But the most remarkable evidence of ancient 
woods is found in the Bay of Keiss. Between the links and the 
sand, and running down under the sea, there are found the re- 

WICK. 129 

mains of a submarine forest. These are like peat moss, entirely 
composed of decayed wood. The barks of various kinds of trees 
are quite discernible ; and even the seeds of the birch and ash 
are so well preserved, as to appear but lately from the tree. No 
large trunks are found ; only small specimens of oak, ash, birch, 
and plane-tree ; but none of fir. 

Mammalogy. — Remains of bovine ruminants of a very large size 
have been found in the mosses and marl-pits of this parish. The 
wolf and the wild-goat were once common in the district, but 
have both been extinct long ago. 

The wild-cat *is occasionally seen. Otters are often found. 
The Links of Reiss are stored with rabbits. Hares are numerous. 
The fox breeds in the rocks about the coast. Moles are super- 
abundant. Weasels, ferrets, and polecats, are not uncommon. 
Ermines have been found at Stirkoke. A stray deer from the 
heights of Morven is occasionally met with. 

The native breed of horses, still employed by the smaller ten- 
ants, is diminutive tTnd weak. Their ^^^ovincial name \s garrons. 
The original stock of cattle was also small, but the^beef was ex- 
cellent. Probably the ancient Cathanensian breed of $heep is not 
yet altogether extinct in* the parish of Wick. They are very 
small, with a dirty brown fleece and four small horns. 

Ornithology. — By the kindness of Eric Sutherland Sinclair, 
Esq., surgeon in Wick, who has paid much attention to this sub- 
ject, this Report is enriched with the following " List of birds found 
in the county of Caithness, and principally in the parish of Wick." 
It cannot fail to be extremely interesting ; and may astonish some 
with the extent and variety of Cathanensian ornithology. Mr Sin- 
clair has formed with his own hands an extensive ornithological 
collection illustrative of the natural history of the district All the 
birds in the subsequent list, except those marked with an asterisk, 
are in this learned gentleman's museum. 

The names of birds found in the county of Caithqess, and prin- 
cipally in the parish of Wick. 

Aquila Chrysaeta Buteo vulgaris Strix flammca 

Halisetus Albicilla Lagopus Ululastridula 

Accipitcr fringillarius Pernis apivorus Hirundo rusticu 

Astur palumbarius Circus rufiw ,. urbica 

Falco percgrinus cyaneus ■ riparia 

Subbuteo cineraceus Cypselus murarius 

_ Tinnunculus Otus vulgaris Capriinulgus Kuropsus 

.— iEsalon Brachyotos Muscicapa grisola 





Garmlns gbndarios 


— — mtui 

IL — CiTiL History. 
There can be no doubt that the aboriginal inhabitants of the 
district which now forms the parish of Wick, were of Celtic origin. 
This is proTed by sereral names of places and rimlets, such as 

WICK, 131 

Auchairn,* Altimarlach, Drumdriy, which are significant in the 
Gaelic language. 

The Celtic inhabitants were invaded and evidently subjugated 
by the Pechts or Picts, a people of Scythic, or more properly 
Scuthic, extraction, who sailed from Scandinavia to Orkney; 
whence they passed into Caithness across the straits denominate 
ed from them the Pechtland, softened into the Pentland, Frithf 
and spread themselves over almost the whole of Scotland. Many 
traces of them are yet to be met with in the parish of Wick, both 
in traditions, and in the shape of those singular and curious ar- 
chitectural ruins called to this day by the common people, Pecht's 
bouses. The designation Cruithnich^ pronounced Creenichy that 
is, wheatmen, by which the Pechts are known in the Gaelic lan^ 
guage— the durability of their habitations extending even to pre* 
sent times, when all traces of the turfen huts of their Celtic pre- 
decessors have long ago passed away— -the legendary marvels of 
their strength and skill — and the superstitious awe with whicli, 
even to this day, the places of their residence are regarded, evince 
that the Pechts must have been a people greatly superior to the 
Celts, and far advanced beyond them in knowledge and civili<^ 

About the year 910, Harrold the Fair-haired, a Norwegian 
king, having expelled the pirates who infested the Northern Seas^ 
from the Orkneys, carried the war into Pictland, where he was 
defeated with great slaughter. On his return to Norway, he 
granted the Orcadian Islands to Ronald, a powerful Norwegian 
chieftain, to comfort him for the loss of Ivar, his son, who had 
fallen in battle. Ronald made over this grant to Sigurd, his bro- 
ther, who, having speedily reduced the Orcadians, passed into 
Caithness, and subdued it, with Sutherland and Ross, under his 
authority. Under a succession of Norwegian earls, a very close 
and frequent intercourse subsisted after this event, for ages, be^ 
tween the north of Scotland and Norway ; whence numerous bands 
of Norwegians successively came and settled in Caithness. Sui> 
names of Norwegian extraction, as Swanson, son of Swen, Man*- 
son, son of Magnus, Ronald, Harrold, &c. are frequent in this pa- 
rish. The termination sterj softened from stadr^ a steading, which 
enters into the names of Camster, Ulbster, Stemster, Hauster, 
Thuster, Bilbster, Sibster, Wester, Thurster, and Nybster, shows 

• Auch-charn, the field of the heap of stones. Alt-na-marlach, thiers-burn. 


also the prevalence of Norwegian colonization within the district 
now forming the parish of Wick. 

The clan Gun are said to have originated in the twelfth cen- 
tury within the parish of Wick, where they once were very power- 
ful, and still are very numerous. About the year 1100, Olaf, a 
man of great bravery, dwelt in the isle of Graemsay, one of the 
Orkneys. He had three sons, Waltheof, Gun, and Swen. ♦ 
From the second of these, traditionally called the Great Gun of 
Ulbster, where he dwelt, the clan Gun deduce their descent. 

About 1 1 40, Ronald, Earl of Orkney, whose name was canon- 
ized at Rome in 1192, ^* was entertained at a town called Wick, 
by Roald, who had a son that was come to maturity, called Swen, 
who was one of those that waited at table." f Margad, who ma- 
naged the possessions at Dungaldsbay, now Duncansbay, of Swen 
Olafson, who followed the profession of a pirate, went some time 
afterwards to Wick, and twenty men with him, to transact some 
business, and before his return slew Roald in his own house, and 
some others with him. Earl Ronald was urged by Swen, the son 
of Roald, to avenge the murder of his father; but the Romish 
saint, after some feeble attempts to seize the person of Margad, 
who was successfully protected by Swen, his master, was, after still 
more horrible atrocities had been perpetrated, reconciled at last to 
both the murderer and the pirate.j: Some time thereafter, whilst 
Ronald was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Harrold the Wicked, 
Earl of Orkney, spent the winter at Wick, and was robbed of the 
rents of his estates in Zetland by Swen the pirate, whose strong- 
hold was at Lambsburgh, hodiernally Buchollie's Castle in Canis- 
bay, near the northern boundary of the parish of Wick. § 

Caithness continued subject to Orcadian earls of Scandinavian 
extraction till about 1330, when, owing to the failure of the male 
line, this earldom went into other families, and the power and in- 
fluence of the Norwegians passed away. 

At, and for some time previously to this era, more than a third 
part of Caithness, including the district which now forms the pa- 
rish of Wick, was possessed by a family surnamed De Cheyne* 
The last of the male line, Sir Reginald, is yet under the designation 
of Morar na Shien, famous in the Highland districts as a mighty 
hunter. He was most anxious for a son to heir his vast estates ; 
and when his wife, Mary, brought him a daughter,* he order- 
ed, in a paroxysm of fury, the child to be destroyed. It was, 

• Pope*s Torfeeus. f '»>. t lb- § lb. 

WICK. 133 


however, conveyed away ; and a little sister escaped, in a similar 
manner, the rage of her twice disappointed father. Years rolled on, 
and Morar na Shien often lamented his childless condition. At 
length, on some public occasion, a great festival was held, at which 
Sir Reginald noticed two young ladies, who far outshone the rest 
of the company. Morar na Shien expressed his admiration, and 
lamented to his wife his cruel infatuation, by which he had been 
deprived of daughters, who, had they been allowed to live, would 
have been about the age of these peerless beauties. Mary de 
Cheyne hastened to confess her justifiable disobedience to her 
husband's orders, and introduced the young ladies to him as 
his own daughters. Overpowered with joy, Sir Reginald de 
Cheyne acknowledged them as his, and constituted them heiresses 
of his extensive possessions. Morar na Shien died about the year 
1350. Mariotta, his elder daughter, married John de Keith, the 
second son of Edward the Marischal, by whom she had a son, An- 
drew, who became possessed, in right of his mother, of the lands 
of Ackergill and other estates in the parish of Wick» Marjory, 
the younger, was heiress of Duffus, and married Nicholas, the se- 
cond son of Kenneth, Earl of Sutherland, who thus obtained the 
castle and lands of Auld Wick, in the same parish. William, on 
whom his father, Earl William, passing by an elder brother of the 
same name, entailed the earldom 6f Caithness, married a daugh- 
ter of Keith of Ackergill. 

These various marriages brought the Sinclairs, Sutherlands, 
and Keiths into the parish of Wick ; and subsequent events gave 
rise to the following couplet, which is yet often repeated : 

Sinclair, Sutherland, Keith, and clan Gun, 
There never was peace whar thae four war in. 

About the year 1464, serious disputes having arisen between 
the Keiths and the clan Gun, Keith of Ackergill associated with 
himself the Mackays of Strathnaver, who readily entered into the 
quarrel, and marched against his enemies. The hostile parties 
encountered each other on the Moor of Tannach, in the parish of 
Wick. A desperate conflict ensued, but afler a cruel slaughter 
on both sides, the Guns were at last defeated. To terminate 
these bitter and bloody feuds, it was arranged that a meeting should 
take place with twelve horses on each side, between Ackergill and 
the Cruner, as the chief of the clan Gun was styled. This in- 
terview was appointed to be held in the Chapel of St Tears, not 
far from Ackergill. The Cruner, with the greater part of his sons 


aDd principal kinsmen, to the number of twelve altogether, came 
at the time appointed, and, as Keith had not yet arrived, they pro- 
ceeded into the chapel to their devotions. Whilst they were at 
prayer, Ackergill came up with twenty-four men, on each horse 
two, and rushing on the Cruner and his followers, overpowered 
and slew them all, but not before the greater part of the Keiths 
had fallen. This horrid act of treachery did not pass unreveng* 
ed. William, the grandson of the Cruner, afterwards intercepted 
and cut off George Keith of Ackergill and his son, with twelve of 
their retainers, at Drummoy in Sutherland. The lands of Ac- 
kergill passed into the possession of the Earl of Caithness. 

The earls of Caithness, who had acquired the greater part of 
the parish of Wick, fixed their baronial residence at the Castle of 
Girnigoe, near the Tower of Ackergill. In 1576, this stronghold 
became the scene of one of the most fearful atrocities on re- 
cord. John, the Master of Caithness, surnamed from his great 
strength, Garrow,* had incurred the displeasure of his father, 
George, the fifth Earl of Caithness of the name of Sinclair, be- 
cause he would not execute the revengeful hatred of the earl 
against Dornock, and extirpate its inhabitants. Having inveigled 
the Master into the snares which had been laid for him, his father 
had him seized at Girnigoe, and cast into a dark and noisome dun- 
geon below ground^ in which he dragged out for years a wretched 
existence. At last his keepers, David and Ingram Sinclair, rela- 
tives of his own, determined to destroy him ; and after having 
kept him for some time without food, gave him a large mess of 
salt beef, and then withholding all drink from him, left him to die 
of raging thirst. 

This inhuman earl died at Edinburgh in 1583, and his body 
was buried in St Giles% where his monument is still to be seen. 
His heart was cased in lead, and placed in the Sinclair's aisle, 
where his murdered son was buried at the church of Wick. 
There is evidence that, if not a Papist, he leaned much to Popery. 

He was succeeded by his grandson, George, son of John Gar- 
row, who began his career by avenging his father's death. David 
Sinclair resided at Keiss, and Ingram at Wester. The daughter 
of the latter was to be married, and a large party were invited to 
the wedding. Earl George met David on his way to Wester, 
and ran him through the body with his sword. The earl then rode 
over to Wester, and accosted Ingram as he was playing at foot- 

• Garh'iy Gaelic, rough, strong. 

WICK. 135 

ball on the green. << Do you know/' said he, ^< that one of my 
corbies," so he called his pistols, ^< missed fire this morning ?"— 
and drawing it from tlie holster as if to look at it, shot him through 
the head. 

In 1588^ the Earl of Sutherland, in revenge for the slaughter 
of one of his dependents by the Sinclairs, made an inroad into 
Caithness, and advanced as far as Wick, which he took and burn- 
ed. One of his followers, having entered the church, found the 
leaden box enclosing the heart of the late Earl of Caithness, and, 
disappointed in his expectations of treasure, broke the casket open, 
and flung the corrupted heart into the air. Proceeding onwards, 
the Sutherlands laid siege to the Castle of Girnigoe, from which 
they retired, after having beleaguered it in vain for twelve days. 
Next year the men of Caithness having killed the Earl of Suth- 
erland's herdsman, that chieftain sent an army of 300 men, 
who marched almost as far as Girnigoe, and cruelly ravaged the 
country. In this inroad, they spoiled the ship, and plundered 
the goods of one Andrew Wardlaw, a merchant in the town of 

In 160G, the Earl of Caithness, by purchase of some estates, 
became proprietor of almost all the parish of Wick ; but his infa- 
mous conduct, which has procured for him in the traditions of this 
parish, the cognomen of the Wicked, involved him in inextrica- 
ble difficulties. To recruit his exhausted resources, he harbour- 
ed at Girnigoe a coiner called Arthur Smith, who filled the coun- 
try with bad money. This, and his turbulence brought down upon 
his head the vengeance of the Court ; and Sir Robert Gordon, 
the first Knight-baronet of Scotland, was despatched with ample 
powers to chastise the treasonable earl. Lord Caithness fled ; 
but Sir Robert laid waste his estates, and took possession of his 
castles of Girnigoe, Ackergill, and Keiss. The earl at length 
submitted himself, and was alimented by his creditors with an an- 
nuity out of his dilapidated estates. He died in 1643, and was 
succeeded by his great-grandson, George, who sold in 1672, the 
whole earldom, title, and all, to the Laird of Glenorchy, and died 
in 1676. 

Glenorchy, who thus had become proprietor of the greater part 
of the parish of Wick, having married the Countess, assumed the 
title of Earl of Caithness. His right to this honour was disput- 
ed by George Sinclair of Keiss. To vindicate his claim, Glen- 
orchy having obtained letters from the Council, raised a troop of 


several hundred men, and tnarched against Sinclair, to dispossess 
him of his patrimonial estate. Keiss collected a force of 400 
men, and awaited his enemy in the borough of Wick. There he 
plentifully regaled his followers ; who had not recovered from their 
revelling, when, on the 13th of July 1680, they were informed 
that the Campbells were crossing the country towards Keiss. In- 
flamed with drink, the men of Caithness vauntingly rushed on the 
men of Glenorchy, who were strongly posted on the western bank 
of the burn of Altimarlach, on the northern side of the River of 
Wick, close above what now forms the upper glebe. A total rout 
pf the revellers immediately ensued, who turned their backs and 
fled through the gully towards the river. Numbers were killed 
in attempting to cross ; and tradition says, that the Campbells, in 
pursuit of the fugitives, passed over the river dry-shod, on the 
bodies of the slain. Notwithstanding this disaster, the right of 
Sinclair of Keiss to the title of Earl of Caithness was at last re- 
cognized, and Glenorchy was created, as a sort of compensatioD, 
Baron of Weik. 

The Baron of Weik was hated by the people. They burned 
the corn and houghed the cattle of the tenants on his estates ; till 
at last, utterly wearied with these incessant vexations, he divided the 
whole of his lauds in Caithness into sixty-two portions, great and 
small, which he sold in 1690. 

In this transaction terminated the civil history of the parish of 
Wick. Nothing has since occurred within it worth recording. 

Land-owners. — The principal land-owner is the Right Ho- 
nourable Benjamin Dunbar Sutherland, Baron of DufTus, and a Ba- 
ronet. Lord Dufl*us is paternally descended from Nicholas Suther- 
land, second son of Kenneth, Earl of Sutherland, who married Mar- 
jory de Cheyne, second daughter of the celebrated hunter, Morar na 
Shien. Marjory was heiress of DufTus, and likewise of Auld Wick 
in this parish, of which her descendant is proprietor at this day. 
The other land-owners are, William Home, Esq. of Scouthel, 
who possesses, in the parish of Wick, the estates of Stirkoke and 
Sibster ; Robert Innes, Esq. of Thrumster ; Kenneth Macleay, Esq. 
of Keiss and Bilbster ; John Sinclair, Esq. of Barrock, proprietor 
in Wick, of Howe and Mireland ; Sir George Sinclair, Bart of 
Ulbster ; the Earl of Caithness, of Mirelandorn ; William Sin- 
clair, Esq. of Freswick, proprietor in Wick, of Nybster ; the Bri- 
tish Society for improving the fisheries are feudatories under Lord 

WICK. 137 

Duffus of PulteDeytown ; andJames Smith, Esq. of Olrig, is owner 
of a small property. 

Of these, Lord Duffus and Robert Innes, Esq. are the only con- 
stantly resident land-owners. William Home, Esq. is occasional- 
ly resident at Stirkoke. All the rest are non-resident. 

Parochial Registers, — The records belonging to the Kirk-session 
have not been well preserved. The earlier minutes of session have 
been lost. Those at present extant consist of five volumes. Of these, 
the first, which contains 237 folio pages, commences on the 20th 
of July 1701, and ends on May 13th 1723 ; the second, which con- 
tains 85 folios, begins on May 2d 1742, and ends on September 
24th 1758; the third, containing 145 folios, begins on October 
1st 1758, and ends on January 13th 1793; the fourth, which 
contains 139 leaves, and is a mere ragged fragment of a quarto 
volume, wanting both beginning and end, commences on the 29th 
of October 1801, and terminates on February 9th 1816; and the 
fifth, in which the minutes of Session are being recorded, commen- 
ces on July 12th 1816. The baptismal registers, which have not 
been regularly kept, consist of six volumes, and commence on the 
3d of November 1701. Up till a late date the registers of ma- 
trimonial contracts, and of births and baptisms, were strangely mix- 
ed and jumbled together. The register of marriages commences 
on the 2dth of August 1840. There is no register of deaths. 

Antiquitfes. — Several cairns on the Yarrows Hills are, perhaps, 
with the addition of some Gaelic names of places, the only remains 
of the aboriginal Celtic inhabitants of this district. 

The curious ruins of the Pechtish habitations are numerously 
scattered all over Caithness. Several of these are in the southern 
division of the parish of Wick. Some occupy the most fertile 
situations ; others again are placed on barren land, where there are 
no traces of cultivation. 

In their outward appearance the Pechtish houses look like little 
round grassy knolls, about twelve or sixteen feet in height. One 
at Thrumster, the seat of Robert Innes, Esq., from which the earth 
has in part been removed, was found to have been composed of 
two concentric circular walls, built of stone and clay, with a con- 
siderable interval between them filled up with earth ; the whole 
forming a rampart of about eighteen feet in thickness. The en- 
closed area was occupied with several cells; and evident marks of 
five fire-places around the inside of the inner wall were discovered. 
The whole was very inartificially vaulted with flagstones, and cover- 


ed over with a tbick coating of earth* Various articles* were fouud 
among the rubbish ; such as a wooden distaff, which soon crumb- 
led into dust; a freestone basin ; and three bullets about the size 
of musket-balls, of a substance like marbles streaked with blue. 
The skeleton of a tall man, who had been buried in a coffin made 
of flags, was dug up from the mould which had been heaped up 
against the outside of the fabric In most of the Pechtish houses 
which have been opened, there were found little recesses in the 
inner walls, which had evidently been used as dormitories for the 

There can be little doubt that these remarkable structures were 
the dwellings of the Pechtish chiefs, who were in all likelihood 
both the leaders and priests of their people. The power and in- 
fluence with which, by force and fraud, they ruled over and oppres- 
sed the Celts who formed the bulk of the population, have invested 
even to this day, the places of their abode with dread and terror. It 
is still deemed no cannie to dig up a Pecht's house. Scarcely will 
a peasant profane their verdant sward with a spade. He stands 
in dread of the fairies, who yet are believed to haunt such places, 
or of some other unknown and revengeful power. 

A ruin on the Links of Keiss, called Toft- Ferry, is pointed out 
by tradition as the remains of the first house built of stone in Keiss, 
and one of the first three built in the parish of Wick. The other 
two were, one at Harland and one at Hauster. * 

On the Links of Kiess, and about half-a-mile to the south of 
Toft- Ferry, there are near the beach other two ruins covered with 
sand, called the Birkle Hills. These are more conspicuous than 
Toft- Ferry, being of a conical form, and elevated about thirty- 
five feet from their base, and about sixty-five yards asunder. They 
are said to be the ruins of two castles, called Castles Linglass. 
Tradition reports that the castles were burned down ; and the re- 
port is confirmed by the calcined state of such stones as have been 
dug from the ruins. It is said that a village, was connected with 
them, of which, however, there are now no remains. 

An apparently monumental stone at Ulbster, on which are en- 
graved some untraceable sculptures, is said to mark the grave of 
a Danish princess, whom Gun, the progenitor of the clan Gun, 
married in Denmark. The vessel in which the Great Gun of 
Ulbster returned home with his bride was wrecked on the iron- 
bound shores of Caithness, and the Danish princess was drowned. 
Elsher's Cairn, between Wick and Papigoe, marks the spot 

WICK. • 139 

where it is traditioDally reported that an Earl Alexander was slain. 
Who he was, or whence he drew his title, is not known. 

Along the coast, are four very ancient strongholds, three of which 
are in ruins, llie Castle of Auld Wick is perhaps one of the 
old^t buildings in Caithness. It stands to the south of Wick 
Bay, on a lofty peninsular rock projecting into the Moray Frith, 
and consists at present of the grim remains of a strong tower of 
the rudest masonry, with the merest slits for windows. The space 
behind it towards the sea, has been occupied with two ranges of lower 
buildings, the foundations of which are yet traceable. On the 
very point of the projecting rock, is a flat smooth space, surrounded 
by the remains of a wall, which appears to have been a kind of 
garden, promenade, or bowling*green. Rude steps lead down to 
the sea. The whole has been defended on the land-side by a 
deep ditch, over which communication has been held with the land 
by means of a drawbridge. The ruins of this black unsightly 
tower, still nearly three stories high, form an excellent land-mark 
to sailors, by whom it is called the AuP Man o' Wick. 

The Castle of Auld Wick was, in the beginning of the fourteenth 
century, one of the strongholds of Sir Reginald de Cheyne. On his 
death, before 1350, it passed into the possession of Nicholas Suth- 
erland, second son of Kenneth Earl of Sutherland, and ancestor 
of the Barons of Duffus, who married Marjory, second daughter 
of Sir Reginald. The castle and lands of Auld Wick after- 
wards went by marriage into the femily of Oliphant ; and tradition 
says that a Lord Oliphant was slain in a rencounter not far from the 
tower. By the Oliphants they were sold to the Earl of Caithness ; 
by a subsequent earl, they were disposed of to Glenorchy, by whom 
they were sold to Dunbar of Hetopriggs, and finally by the mar- 
riage of Sir James Sutherland, second son of James, second Lord 
Duffus, with Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir William Dun- 
bar of Hempriggs, the lands and castle of Auld Wick have come 
into the possession of the present Lord Dufins, the lineal male re- 
presentative of Nicholas Sutherland and Marjory de Cheyne. 

The Castle of Girnigoe, which stands a little to the west of 
Noss-Head, was the chief baronial stronghold of the Sinclairs, 
Earls of Caithness. Its ruins occupy the whole surface of a bold 
peninsular rock, which, starting from a shoulder of the mainland, 
shelters a goe or inlet of some width, whence the castle received 
its name. The ruins are evidently of different ages. The date 


of the older and larger portion, which is the one farther out, is 
buried in remote antiquity. The newer portion seems to have 
been built in the sixteenth century. The extremity of the penin- 
sular rock is occupied by a chamber said to have been the Earl's 
bed-room. A trap-door in the middle of the floor led throdgh 
the rock to the sea. This room communicated by a flight of steps 
with the court, which stood on a higher. level. On the right side^ 
facing the Bay of Keiss, ran a range of low rooms all the way to 
the dungeon-keep, while towards the land there were only three 
or four small rooms next the bed-chamber, the rest of the court 
on that side having been shut in by a high wall, pierced with 
seven loop-holes. The tower, which consisted of five stories, and 
is about fifty feet in height, occupied the whole breadth of the 
rocL The staircase^ circular within, stood in the north-east 
comer next the land. No part of the stair remains. The main 
mri of the tower is of such a size as to contain several vaulted 
apartments on the ground floor, besides the passage to the newer 
building. In one corner of the room next the sea there is a nar- 
row stair leading into a cell, partly formed in the rock. A small 
window opening on the Bay, but beyond the reach of the hapless 
captive, gives light enough to reveal the gloom which pervades the 
dungeon. Here languished for several years, till he was ultimately 
murdered, John Garrow the Master of Caithness, a victim to the 
hatred of his unnatural father, who revelled in the chambers above, 
while his son was perishing in the dungeons below. In the north- 
west corner of the court, a passage leads through the tower to the 
edge of a chasm in the rock, over which a draw-bridge led to the 
court of the new castle. 

With the exception of one or two outer rooms, and of a narrow 
chimney-stalk of the main tower, this part of the building is now 
a heap of rubbish, presenting a singular contrast to the older walls, 
which are nearly entire. This decay must be ascribed to a defect 
in the foundation, which seems to have been built with clay. The 
superstructure being cemented with lime, fell almost in one mass 
into the hollow between the castle and the mainland, and still 
shows the sides of several arches of very strong masonry prostrate 
on the ground. The tower of this part of the castle was not 
nearly so lofty as that of the other; but much more attention had 
evidently been paid in the construction of it to internal finishing. 
Access was obtained from the mainland by a draw-bridge over au 

WICK. 141 

artificial ditch across the neck of the peninsula, through an arched 
passage into the court. 

The situation of this castle is naturally strong, and its occu^ 
pants could have set at defiance assailants armed with the weapons 
of ancient days. A garrison could not have been pressed by fa^ 
mine, so long as they commanded the sea, for they could always 
obtain provisions through the secret passage, and the goe would 
afford secure accommodation for such small craft as they might 
employ for trafiic with the neighbouring shores. 
. In 1606, George the Wicked, Earl of Caithness, obtained an 
act of Parliament changing the old name of Girnigoe into thai 
of SiuQlair. Both names, however, are applied to the ruins, which 
are always called Castles Sinclair and Girnigoe, the latter name 
being applied to the more ancient portion. A drawing, was taken 
of these castles by Daniell, before Castle Sinclair became so rui* 
nous as it now is. 

The tower of Ackergill, anciently written Aikrigill, which 
stands on the bosom of the Bay of Keiss, is a noble and impres* 
sive structure. It is perfectly rectangular, eighty-two feet ia 
height, and battlemented. The walls are extremely massive, up- 
wards of thirteen feet in thickness ; and the whole building is ve- 
nerably grey with the hoar of great antiquity. It is in excellent 
repair ; and is at present the residence of the Honourable George 
Dunbar, Master of Duffus, to whose father it and the Castles 
Sinclair and Girnigoe belong. 

By whom, or at what time, the tower of Ackergill was erected, 
is altogether unknown. The lands of Ackergill belonged to Morar 
na Shien, with whose daughter Marietta they went into the pos- 
session of the Keiths, and, after passing through the hands of the 
Sinclairs and others, came at last into the family of Duffus. 

On the northern side of Keiss Bay stand the ruins of the Castle 
of Keiss, opposite the Castles Sinclair and Girnigoe. It con- 
sists at present of the remains of a paltry tower. 

This stronghold was formerly called the Fortalice of Radder. 
It anciently belonged to the Earls of Caithness. At present, it 
is the property of Kenneth Macleay, Esq. of Newmore and Keiss^ 

Near Thrumster House is a standing-stone, respecting which 
there is an ancient tradition in this district, that Margaret the 
Maiden of Norway, heiress of the Scottish Crown, was wrecked 
on this coast on her return to Scotland, and buried under the 
" Standinor-Stane o' Thrumster." 



The only other antiquity worth noticing, is that of the Sinclairs* 
Aisle, in the church-yard, opposite the door of the Parish Church. 
It is in the form of a small but elegant chapel. The walls are 
entire, but roofless. It was built by that Earl George who mur- 
dered his own son in the vaults of the Castle of Gimigoe. * 

An old image of St Fergus, the tutelary saint of the parish in 
Popish times, habited in a monkish dress, and standing on some 
sort of animal, which formerly lay in the church, has now been 
placed in the jail. Its features are altogether effaced. 

Modem Buildings. — The chief of these is the parish Church. 
This is a large substantial fabric of the very plainest Gothic, built 
of blue flagstone, with freestone at the comers, doors, and win- 
dows, and on the spire. It is imposing from its size. The Town 
and County Hall is likewise of flagstone, ornamented in front 
with freestone, and a belfry like a cupola. The hall itself is a 
large and well-proportioned room. Its walls are adorned with 
well executed portraits of the late Earl of Caithness ; the late Sir 
John Sinclair of Ulbster; James Traill, Esq. of Rattar; and 
Kenneth Macleay, Esq. The Commercial Bank is of freestone, 
with pillars of the Ionic order. The Congregational Chapel in 
Wick, the United Secession, the Reformed Presbyterian, and 
the Popish chapels in Pulteneytown^ are very plain buildings. 
The Academy, built by the British Fishery Company, is a good 
and commodious building. A new church, in connection with the 
Church of Scotland, is about to be commenced in Pulteneytown. 

A Temperance Hall, cajpable of holding 1000 persons, is in 
the course of being erected in Wick, by the Total Abstinence 
Society of Wick and Pulteneytown. 

Hempriggs House, formerly Telstone, the seat of Lord Duffus, 
though of considerable antiquity, is a large and commodious man- 
sion. The House of Stirkoke, the s^at of William Home, Esq. 
of Scouthel ; the House of Thrumster, the seat of Robert Innes, 
Esq. ; and Rosebank, the property of Kenneth Macleay, Esq. of 
Newmore, — are excellent residences. There are also substantial 
houses at Ulbster, Tannach, Bilbster, Sibster, Harlan, Reiss, 
and Noss, and not a few in the burgh of Wick. 

The material of which these and all other stone erections in 

• On a stone in the aisle is the following inscription : ** Here within lyes in- 
tombed ane Noble and worthie man, John, Master Fiar of Caithness, of Clyth and 
Greenland, Knight, father of ane Noble and potent Lord, now George Earl of Caith- 
ne«8. Lord Sinclair of Berridale, who departed this life the 15th day of March 1576, 
being of age 45 years," 


WICK. 143 

the parish are composed, is the universal clayslate, or dark-blue 
flagstone of the county. This, when the stones are well selected 
and squared, makes a beautiful wall. Buildings of it, however, 
from the darkness of its hue, have a very sombre appearance- 
Many houses in Pulteneytown, and throughout the landward 
part of the parish, are built without lime. The wind sifts through 
their walls, and makes them very cold. The houses of many of 
the smaller tenants, and of the cottars, are built partly of stone 
and partly of turf. Some of them are of turf altogether, and are 
wretched hovels. But these very miserable huts are happily be- 
coming rare in the parish of Wick. 

II I. — Population. 
About the year 1695, there were in the parish of Wick 2000 
catechisable persons. * The following table shows the state of 
the population at the periods specified. 

in ]707» the population amounted to . SQOO 

1719, .... about 4000 

1726, .... seoo 

1755, .... a938 

1792, 5000 

1801 .... 9966 

181 1 J there were 1044 fiimilies, 2394 malei, 2686 females. Total, 5080 
1821, 1339 8263 3450 6713 

1831. 1976 4830 5020 9850 

In 1792, there were in the Burgh 200 families, and 1000 Individuals. 

181 1, 232 do.— 489 males, 505 females. Total, 994 

In LouisbuTgh, Pulteneytown, and Bankhead, 401 354 755 

890 859 1749 

Population in 1840, males 4325, females 5021. ToUl, 9346 
Do, 1826, . . 7520 

Increase in fourteen years, 1826 

It is impossible to ascertain the yearly average of births, mar- 
riages, and deaths, seeing that there is no register of deaths; that 
the Dissenters do not register their children's births ; that great 
numbers of Churchmen are guilty of the same culpable negligence; 
and that a register of marriages solemnized within the Establish- 
ment, was commenced only about four months ago. , 

Lord Duffus is the only nobleman resident in the parish. His 
seat is Hemprigg House. His son, the Master of Duffus, dwells at 

People. — The Celts were, for anything that appears, aboriginal in 
the district. They were in early times invaded and subjugated by the 
Pechts, a Scandinavian race, whose descendants mtermingled their 
blood with that of their Celtic vassals. The Norwegian conquerors and 

" Records of Presbytery of Caitliness, Sd Oetober 1700. 


colonists, a people cognate with the Pechts, infused a much larger 
portion of Gothic blood into the Celtico-Pechtish population of 
the district The changes made, a few years ago, on the estates 
of the Duchess- Countess of Sutherland, drove a great many 
Highlanders into Caithness, who found work and sustenance chiefly 
in the more comndercial districts of the county. This Celtic sup- 
ply is kept up by the herring fishery, which annually brings into 
Wick very great numbers of young Highlanders, several of whom 
every year settle in the parish. From all these causes it follows, 
that the present parishioners of Wick are an intermixture of the 
Celtic, Pechtish, Norwegian, and, latterly, again of the Celtic 

This is evident, both from the names and from the physical 
character, of the people. It is difficult to say whether the sur- 
names of Gothic or those of Gaelic origin predominate. Gaelic 
baptismal names are likewise very common. The physical cha- 
racter of the people also denotes their Celtico- Gothic origin. 
Though there are some, yet there are, remarkably few red or yel- 
low-haired persons in the parish. Their hair is generally black 
or very dark-brown, and their complexions correspondent. Their 
persons are taller and larger limbed than those of their Celtic 
neighbours, though not so tall nor large as those of unmingled 
Gothic descent. In general, their counteifances are rather round- 
ish than oval ; their eyes dark ; their teeth short, white and firmly 
set ; and their frames spare, but straight, alert, and sinewy. Many 
are very handsome. 

Language. — The language spoken over all the parish is, with 
exception of that of some Gaelic incomers, a dialect of the low- 
land Scottish. It is distinguished, however, by several peculiari- 
ties. Wherever the classical Scottish has wh^ the dialect of the 
parish of Wick has^; as^a^ for what, fan for whan ; and where- 
ever the Scottish has t/, this dialect has ee ; as seen for sune^ meen 
fqr muneyfeel tor fide. Ch at the beginning of words is softened 
into 5, or sh ; as, mrch for church ; shapel for chapel. Th at the 
beginning of words is often omitted. She^ her^ and hersKve almost 
invariably used for it and its. This seems a Gaelic idiom ; and the 
tendency to pronounce s and cA, as shy seems a relic of Gaelic 

Habits. — At all seasons of the year, whisky is drunk in consider- 
able quantities, but during the fishing season enormous potations arc 
indulged in. It may seem incredible, but it has been ascertained, 


WICK. 145 

that, during the six weeks of a successful fishing, not less thaa 
500 gallons a day were consumed. Let it be remembered, how- 
ever, that at that period 10,000 strangers, as boatmen, gutters, 
&C. were crowded into the town of Wick. Of late years, the 
people have been more temperate. Snuffing is almost universal 
among the men, and both it and smoking are very common among 
the women. About L.3,500 a-year are spent in the parish of 
Wick on tobacco. 

Character, — The parishioners of Wick are shrewd and atten- 
tive to their own interest. Their shrewdness, however, sometimes 
degenerates into cunning. Unchastity, both in man and woman, 
is lamentably frequent, which appears from the records of the kirk- 
session to have been always the case. They possess, notwithstand- 
ing, many most estimable qualities. They are remarkable for 
natural afiection, and show much kindness to their poorer neigh- 
bours. No small respect is evinced by the commonalty for the 
ordinances of religion ; family worship is prevalent among them ; 
the Sabbath is much regarded; and their attendance on the 
preaching of the Gospel is most laudable. 

Smuggling is all but unknown, excepting between the fishers 
and the French fishing-boats during the season of the herring- 
fishery. Poaching is not frequent ; and there is not a pawnbroker 
in the parish. 

IV. — Industry. 
The state of agriculture in the parish of Wick, previously to 1790, 
was extremely curious, and its arrangements as hostile as they pos- 
sibly could be to all improvement. Each property was divided into 
townlands. In every townland there were what was called " the 
mains," which consisted of a farm, on which were a barn and a 
stack-yard. The proprietor retained the mains in his own hand. 
The remainder of the townland was divided into what were called 
penny-lands, halfpenny-lands, farthing-lands, and octos. These 
were measured out by shrewd countrymen, called land-riders, 'or 
more properly land-redders, for they did not ride. In accomplish- 
ing their work, they spaced six spaces as the breadth of a rig of corn- 
land, and 240 as the length. This they denominated a firlot-sowing 
of oats. This multiplied by four, the number of firlots in a boll, gave 
5760 square spaces, being precisely the number of Scotch ells in a 
statute Scotch acre. The land-redders knew nothing about survey- 
ing, nor had ever heard of a chain, or of an acre ; yet it must be 



plain, that, long before the memory of man, their measqrement 
must have been founded on actual mensuration by the chain. 

The grass-land, outfield, or in arable, was assigned in 6xed 
proportions to these different divisions ; and a certain rent, vary- 
ing in different townlands, was laid on the grass-land, and a cer- 
tain quantity of grain to be paid for the corn-land of these various 
penny, halfpenny, farthing, and octo lands. The townland of 
Papigoe, for instance, in the neighbourhood of the town of Wick, 
was divided into fifteen penny-lands, one halfpenny-land, and half 
an octo. Every penny-land paid eleven bolls of corn, or farm as 
it was called, and no money. The townland of Kilminister was 
red into thirty-six penny-lands, each one of which paid four bolls 
of farm, and L.5, 6s. 8d. Scots as rent of the grass-land. To 
render the state of matters still more opposed to all improvement, 
the custom of run-rig was common. This most barbarous cus- 
tom was said to have originated in times of universal and inces- 
sant feuds, as a preservative against one neighbour's setting fire 
to the field of another, and to make the whole townland equally 
anxious to resist an enemy in case of invasion. 

These penny-lands, &c., were let to small tenants, who, be- 
sides the rent already specified, yielded an infinite variety of 
minute services to the landlord. The tenants of each penny- 
land, for instance, had to bring out their own plough, fully equip- 
ped, early in spring, and plough half an acre of oat-land in the mains, 
— to send a man to sow the seed, — to send their harrows and har- 
row the ground,— to send two persons to carry on the horses' 
backs, for there was not a cart in all the parish, the manure in 
straw baskets, called caizies, for the bear-land, — to lay the manure 
on, — to send a plough and till the bear-land, — to sow the seed,— 
to harrow it with their own harrows : in summer, to mow the na- 
tural grass, — to make it into hay, — to cart it, — to carry it to the 
yard with their own carts, — to build it into stacks, — to send a per- 
son to weed the corn, — to cast 400 feal for building houses, and 
300 divots for thatching them : in harvest, to cut down a certain 
quantity of corn, — to carry it, and build it in the stack-yard, — to 
furnish a certain number of winlins to thatch the mains' stacks, a 
certain quantity of drawn straw to thatch the mains' houses, and 
a certain quantity of simmins^ that is, plaited straw-ropes, to bind 
down the thatch, — to thrash a certain quantity of corn in the 
barn, — to dry it in the kiln, — to carry it to the mill, — to carry the 
meal thence to the girnel, and to ship it on board for exportation, 

WICK. 14? 

— to carry one letter in rotation to any person in Caithness, — to 
give a certain portion of peats, — to dress a certain quantit;y of lint, 
— to winter a certain number of cattle — to pay one fat lamb, two 
geese, hens, chickens, eggs, &c &c. The land-redders laid ofiF to 
each penny-land such a proportion of arable land as they thought 
would sow twelve bolls of small oats, or eight bolls of bear. Of 
the natural grass-land assigned to each penny-land the tenant had 
exclusive possession only till the corn was off the ground, when 
the whole again became common till the next spring. Instead of 
being encouraged to take in and imprpve any part of the outfield- 
land, the tenants were expressly debarred from doing so, or, in the 
country phrase, corrupting the leases, and were prohibited from 
cultivating any more than the portion of corn-land which had been 
ridden ofi" to them* ' 

The state of agriculture was what might have been expected 
from such wretched arrangements. There was not a cart in the 
whole county. Not a potato, nor a turnip, nor sown grass was 
known. No rotation of cropping was observed, except that the 
arable land was always alternately in oats and bear, the .manure 
being invariably put to the bear»crop. Not a drain was dug; and 
not a fence was to be seen except about a field or two round the 
proprietors* houses. 

This extraordinary mode of farming went on without any change 
till 1790. In 1782, Sir Benjamin Dunbar, the present Lord 
Duffus, succeeded his father. He found all the townlands on the 
whole of his extensive estates in Wick, comprising the half of the 
parish, under lease to middle- men, who paid him only the money 
rent payable by the small tenant for the orrass-land, and 6s. 8d. 
for each boll of eight stone and a half, paid by them for the corn- 
land. Thus the middle-men had the mains of each townland, and 
the services of the subtenantry free. Sir Benjamin, aware of what 
was passing in other countries, determined to put an end to this 
wretched system, which had immemorially prevailed. Having as« 
certained on what principles the land-redders divided and appor-* 
tioned the land, he had the whole of his numerous townlands 
measured with the chain, abolished the middlemen, converted all 
the services of the tenants into money, and granted them leases 
at a fixed rent The result of this enlightened procedure was 
most advantageous. Tillage was extended, better modes of cul- 
tivation were introduced, land was improved, the rental of the pro- 
prietor increased, while the tenantry were delivered from their 


former degrading vassalage, and their comfort and respectability 
greatly promoted. When Sir Benjamin Dunbar came into pos- 
session of his estate, there were but a very few farm-houses on it 
built with stone ; now, there are very few, if indeed any, built of turf. 
The great improvement of land within the parish of Wick may 
be seen from the following statement. In 1666, the valued rent 
of the parish was L.6977, 6s. 8d. Scots. In the corrected rental 
of last ceutiiry, it stood thus : 

or the landward part of the parish, . L.6870 2 

Of the burgh, . . 166 13 4 

Toul, . L.65d6 13 6 Scots. 

In 1700, the real rent was L.1000 Sterling. In 1728, the vic- 
tual beintr converted at L.4, ds. 4d. Scot^, it was L. 13,659, IDs. 
lOd. Scots, equal to L.1138, 5s, lOd. Sterling. 

In 1 830, the real rent of the landward part of the parish was, L. 12,000 

burgh of Wick, L.3544 9 

Louisburgh and Blaekrock, 1250 
Stazigoe, Broadhaven, and 

Papigoe, . 1834 2 

Pultencytown, . 7333 13 

Banks and Bankhead, 251 14,213 4 

Total in Sterling money, . L.26,21d 4 

As to particular estates ; in 1753, the rental of Hempriggs was, L.642 2 3 

Ulbster, . 94 8 

in 1804, the rental of Thrumster, . 180 

in 1814, Stirkoke, . 611 

Ulbster, . . 214 3 
in 1830, Hempriggs, exclusively 

of Pulteneytown, was 5607 18 6 

Stirkoke, . 1834 

Thrumster, . 947 

Ulbster, . . 493 

In 1792, the rent of the best land ranged from 10s. to 15s. per 
acre. In all the parish at that period, there were of sown grass 
only 12 or 14 acres at Hempriggs, 8 in possession of the minister, 
and a few patches between Wick and Staxigoe. There was not a 
cart in the parish, the ploughs were of the very rudest description, 
drawn by three or four worthless horses, with, perhaps, a couple 
of cows to assist, a lad tugging them on before, and a man holding 
the single stilt behind. Such a phenomenon may yet indeed be 
seen, even in 1841. The commenced improvement of the dis- 
trict, however, had already beneficially affected the wages of la- 
bour and the price of provisions. In 1792, ploughmen, who had, 
some years before, had no more than from Ids. 4d. to 18s. the 
half year, got from L.1 to L.1, 8s. ; women-servants, who had, for 
the half year, had from 6s. 8d. got from L.1, to L. 1, 4s.; day- 

WICK. 149 

labourers got from 6d. to lOd. a day; women were hired for the 
harvest at 6d. a day and a bannock ; and domestic servants had 
raised their half-yearly wages from 6s. Sd. to 13s. Provisions 
brought the following prices : those which had sold at Id. per pound 
rose to 2d. ; hens fetched 3^d, a piece ; cocks dd. ; and chickens 
1^. ; eggs were Id. per dozen; geese, which had sold at 8d a 
piece, brought Is. 6d. ; and corn, which, in 1762, had sold at from 
5s. to 8s. a boll, brought in 1792, from 10s. to 18s. 

In 1840, the average rent of arable land was from L. I, 5s. to 
L.1, 10s. an acre. A ploughman got for the half year L. 4, lOs. 
and victuals ; a woman for the same term L. 1, 10s. and victuals ; 
day-labourers earned in summer from Is. 6d. a day, to 2s. ; in 
winter, about 2s. ; women in summer, 8d. a day ; in winter, 6d. ; 
men got as harvest fee, L. 1, 10s., with a weekly allowance of four- 
teen pounds of meal ; and women L.1, with a weekly allowance of 
twelve pounds. Wool brought from L. 1, 4s. to L.1, 68. a stone. 
The price of mason- work from L.1, 15s. to L.2 per rood ; and of 
three feet dikes from Is. 2d. to Is. dd. a yard. A good cart 
brought from L.10 to L.l 1 ; and an iron plough, L. 3, 10s. Bear, 
on an average of the last five years, brought L.1, 4s. per quarter; 
and oats, L.1, Is. ; potatoes were 12s. per boll; turnips, L. 5 per 
acre ; and hay was about 6d. per stone. In 1 840, the price of oat- 
meal was 15s. per boll ; of bear-meal, 12s. per boll ; of beef per 
pound, 4^d. ; of fowls, from 6d. to 9d. a piece ; and of eggs per 
dozen, about 4d. 

The average rent of grazing for the year is at the rate of L.6 
per ox or cow; and of L.1 per sheep on inland, and of 8s. on 
moory patsure. 

Live-Stock. — Of cattle there are two breeds. In the Jirst place, 
the pure Highland, which has been much improved of late years 
by the introduction of bulls and breeding cows, selected from the 
best Highland stocks in Scotland. Secondly^ crosses from the 
short-horned bull and Highland cows have been introduced, and 
answer well, especially for feeding, as they are brought at an early 
age to a great size and weight ; and, since the introduction of steam 
conveyance, can be conveniently sent to the southern or metropo- 
litan markets. The common breed of sheep is the Cheviot. This 
is crossed by the Leicester tup ; and the cross thrives remarkably 
well. These sorts of stock are the most profitable, taken together 
with the present improved system of agriculture and rotation of 
crops. Both sheep and cattle, indeed, are in such a forward state 
of improvement, as to be capable of being brought into competition 


with those of the southern districts, and of late years have carried 
off several premiums at the Highland Society's shows. 

In 1833, there were 12,375 acres under the plough* Very 
great additions have since been made to this amount Extensive 
inroads are made upon the waste lands every year. In reclaiming 
waste land, it is ploughed and fallowed for one or more years, as 
the soil may require, in order to pulverize it. Then lime is laid 
on the ground at the rate of from thirty to forty bolls, or marl from 
eighty to 100 bolls an acre. The ground having been thus pre- 
pared, is sown with white crop, and afterwards with turnips, oats, 
and grass, each year in succession. A vast extent of waste land 
has been reclaimed under this system. 

Thorough draining is indispensable to the improvement of land 
in the parish of Wick. Furrow-draining has lately been intro- 
duced, but has not yet been extensively practised. The most ad- 
vantageous rotation of crops is the six-shift. This is chiefly followed 
on the larger farms. On these, also, the fields are generally en- 
closed either with ditches, stone walls, or quickset hedges, which, 
in many places, with pains bestowed on them, thrive very well. 

The value of the whole produce from agriculture in 1833 wa» 
L. 37,120, of which about L. 34,418 were for grain, &c There 
is no account of the value of the live-stock at any period. 

Of the smaller farmers, the younger and more active follow the 
larger as closely as their limited means will allow : but still it 
must be confessed, that a considerable number lag behind, and, from 
want of skill, capital, or activity, plod on in very nearly the system 
observfed by their forefathers. It would appear, indeed, that a very 
great number of the farms are much too small. They do not 
afford employment all the year round to the farmer and his gar^ 
rons. He thus is obliged to drive peats into Wick, or at times to 
work at day's-wages to the larger farmers, or at any other kind 
of employment that he can fall in with. Many of them betake 
themselves to the sea in the fishing-season. Their means are 
scanty ; their education is therefore often very limited ; their 
houses are bad ; and their children grow up and have their habits 
formed in total ignorance of what, in the southern parts of Scot- 
land, are reckoned necessaries of life ; and this state of matters, 
without any desire of improvement, is thus, in numerous instances, 
perpetuated from father to son. It might, perhaps, ultimately be 
well for the population of this district, if those numerous insignifi- 
cant patches of land were laid together, and formed into farms 

WICK. • 151 

of from L.dO to L.lOO of annual rent, taking care that there should 
be the greater number at the smaller rent between L.dO and L.60. 
The state of capital and the physical character of the district appa« 
rentiy point out this as a desirable arrangement. In effectingit, how- 
ever, very much tenderness ought to be shown. All great changes 
ought to be gradual. The viofent and extensive ejection of small 
tenants, not having the means of supporting themselves and fami* 
lies till other sources of support are discovered and made availabloi 
always occasions an amount of suffering, that can neither be com« 
pensated nor atoned for by any consequent agricultural improve- 

Lea}te8. — At present, leases are given, varying from fourteen to 
twenty years in duration. If leases are not taken too high, they 
plainly form a great encouragement to the tenant. But they like- 
wise are as evidently beneficial to the landlord. The tenant is 
induced to lay out both capital and labour in improving his farm^ 
by which means the landlord's estate is improved. The relation^ 
indeed, of landlord and tenant involves many reciprocal advantages, 
obligations, and duties. The comfort of the landlord and his 
prosperity will be deeply involved in the character, comfort, and 
prosperity of his tenantry. He should, therefore, endeavour to 
store his estates not only with the best cattle, but with the best 
men. It is as much his interest as his duty to promote, both by 
precept and example, Christianity on his estates. This would be 
the parent of all improvement. God has placed the heritors of 
Scotland in most responsible situations. A Christian landlord is 
an unspeakable blessing to all under his influence, and, next to an 
unchristian minister, an unchristian heritorship is about the great- 
est curse that can befall a parish. 

Fisheries. — There is a small salmon-fishery in the Bay and 
River of Wick. Probably about 150 men are engaged all the 
year round in the white-fishery, on the coasts of the parish. 

This, however, is of v^ry trifling importance indeed, in compari* 
son of the herring-fishery, which is carried on to a great extent in 
this district. From time immemorial vast shoals of herrings have 
frequented the coast They were, however, in ancient days, almost 
completely neglected. For nearly 200 years the people contented 
themselves with catching a few fish on rude iron hooks, and proceed* 
ing with that excellent bait to the cod-fishing. About the beginning 
of the eighteenth century, nets began to be used. Some time after- 
wards, the attention of Government was directed to the fishery, and 


bounties were offered for its encouragement In ITG?, John Soth* 
erland of Wester, John Anderson of Wick, and Alexander Mil- 
ler of Staxigoe, fitted out two sloops on the bounty, which, how- 
ever, by some informality, they lost Next year, they fitted out one 
sloop again, fished successfully, and, though with some difficulty, 
recovered the bounty. This adventure not having been very en- 
couraging, their ardour abated for some years ; but the place of 
rendezvous having been at last altered, the herring-fishery there- 
after annuallv increased. Adventurers came from Aberdeen, and 
from the Orkneys, and established the fishing at Staxigoe, and 
took leases of 99 years' duration, for the purpose of building stores 
and houses for the curing of red-herring. Those enterprising fish- 
curers employed boats and crews from Avoch and the neighbouring 
towns, on the southern side of the Moray Frith ; but these fisher- 
men never went farther from the shore in search of fish than a 
mile or two, when, if they did not find any, they concluded that 
none were on the coast. In 1786, the British Society for extend- 
ing the Fisheries, and improving the sea-coasts of the Kingdom, 
was incorporated by Act of Parliament. This incorporation great- 
ly promoted the fishery. A great number of boats and crews from 
the Frith of Forth began to come northwards to the fishing, and 
the crews, being more adventurous, sought for the fish at the dis- 
tance of ten or twelve miles from the shore, with most encourag- 
ing success. In 1782, 363 barrels of white herring were export- 
ed. In 1790, there were at Wick 32 boats, measuring 1610 tons, 
on the bounty. That year, there were 10,514 barrels of white, 
and above 2000 of red-herrings exported, besides about 700, es- 
timated to have been consumed in the county. In 1808, the British 
Fishing Society, incorporated, as has been mentioned, in 1786, 
commenced their establishment of Pulteneytown, by making a 
harbour for the accommodation of boats and shipping, and by 
granting feus in perpetuity for building on liberal terms. In 1809, 
commissioners were appointed by Act of Parliament, for the pur- 
pose of promoting and regulating this branch of national industry. 
Under improved methods of curing, introduced by the commis- 
sioners, and an additional bounty granted by Parliament in 1815, 
the fishery increased so rapidly, that, in 1824, the British Fishery 
Society commenced the construction of an outer harbour, which, 
having been finished, rendered the port both safe and commodious. 
This measure consolidated the prosperity of the Wick herring- 

^ICK. 153 

fishery. It now could afford to lose the Parliamentary bounties, 

which, in 1 830, were withdrawn. 

The shoals of herrings appear on the coast about the middle 

of July, when the 6shing is immediately begun. It is continued 

for eight or ten weeks. The fishing stations within the parish 

are at Keiss, Staxigoe, Broadhaven, Wick, and Sarclet. The 

average annual number of boats employed for the last ten years is 

about 900 ; and the average annual quantity of fish taken for the 

last twenty years is 88,500 barrels. The price of a boat with its 

fleet of nets and everything complete, is from L.140 to L.I50 

Sterling. Each boat on an average generally fishes from 100 to 

150 crans, at a price of from 10s. to 12s. per cran. A barrel of 

cured herrings costs L.I. 

The following table shows the state of the herring-fishery at 
Wick in 1840: 

Native boats, . 428 

Strange boats, . 837 

Total of boau. 


Crews of said boats. 

Women employed as gutters, &c. 
Labourers, . '. • 
CarterSf . . . 
Other labourers employed about the fishing. 
Seamen in coasting vessels (supposed), 
Fish-curers entered, 









Total of persons employed. 


Total of barrels cured, 


Barrels bung.packed, branded. 


Barrels exported to Ireland, 
To other places in Europe, 


Total of barrels exported, 55,711 

The herring-fishery has in a very rapid manner increased the 
population, and augmented the rental of the parish, and the pe- 
cuniary resources of many of the parishioners ; but whether it has 
added to the happiness and comfort of the people at large, may 
well foe questioned. If it has increased the wealth, it has also 
increased the wickedness of the district ; and any one acquaint- 
ed with the sources of happiness well knows that *' a man's 
life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he pos- 
sesseth." Very great care was taken to promote the numbers 
and success of the fishers of herrings, but little or no care to pro- 
mote either the number or success of the fishers of men. The 


result which invariably follows such conduct has ensued. The 
population rapidly increased ; rents, wages, and prices rose ; build- 
ings were erected, and all things seemed prosperous. But there 
was a worm in this blossom of happiness. The means of grace 
and of pastoral superintendence were not extended* Multitudes 
escaped altogether beyond their blissful influence. No care was 
taken of the 10,000 young strangers of both sexes who were 
crowded together with the inhabitants within the narrow limits of 
Wick during the six principal weeks of the fishing, exposed to 
tirink and numerous other temptations. The consequences have 
been such, as any one acquainted with the propensities of fallea 
humanity might easily have foreseen ; and results have verified 
the declaration of the prophet, that " the ungodly who earneth 
wages, earneth wages to put them into a bag full of holes.*^ A 
people cannot be exalted without righteousness, and with right- 
eousness they cannot be degraded ; but morality cannot be com- 
municated nor upheld without the full and abundant administra- 
tion of the Gospel. When will legislators, heritors, and merchants 
be convinced of this ? 

Mamifactures. — There are in Wick and Pulteneytown four 
rope-works, which employ, besides the masters, 75 men, with 
occasional hands. The first of these commenced in 1820. All 
the rope which they produce is consumed in this port. There is 
one distillery and brewery, which employs 12 men ; one meal and 
barley-mill, which employs 5 ; four saw-mills, three of which are 
driven by steam and one by water, employ 26 hands. A manu- 
factory of pavement for exportation employs from 60 to 80 work- 
men. There is a ship-building yard, commenced in 1815, with 
always one or two vessels on the stocks, employing about 50 ship- 
wrights. Twelve boat-building yards employ from 70 to 80, who 
launch from 80 to 100 boats annually. There has lately been 
established in Pulteneytown an iron-foundery, which gives em- 
ployment to from 6 to 8 men, and promises to be prosperous* 
A Gas Company was formed in 1840, whose works are iti the 
course of being erected ; and it is to be hoped, that, by another 
winter, both Wick and Pulteneytown will be lighted with gas. 
There are 266 coopers in the parish. The principal, almost, in- 
deed, the sole occupation of females in and about the towns, is the 
spinning of yarn and making it into nets for the herring-fishing. 
At this they can earn the miserable pittance of only 24d. or dd. 
a day. 

WICK. 155 

Navigation. — A little trade has been carried on from the port 
of Wick from very early times. In 1588, Alexander Earl of 
Sutherland burnt the town of Wick, and spoiled the ship and 
plundered the goods of Andrew Wardlaw, a merchant. 

In 1840, twenty-one ships were registered at the port of Wick, 
amounting to 1154 tons. The tonnage of the ships which have 
entered this port for the last twenty years may have been about 
30,000 tons annually ; and the yearly number of sailors a'bout 

A steam-boat began to run from Wick to Leith in 1833, once 
a fortnight. The Sovereign steam-boat of 200 horse-power, which 
commences for the season in March, and is laid up in November, 
makes a voyage, once a week, between Lerwick, Kirkwall, Wick, 
Aberdeen and Leith. It carries passengers, stock, and goods ; 
and has been of the greatest advantage, not to Wick only, but to 
Caithness, Orkney, and Shetland. Two smacks ply, each once 
a fortnight, between and Leith. There is at Wick a Chamber of 

V. — Parochial Economy. 
Market'Town. — Wick is the market-town of this parish. It is 

a place of great antiquity ; and was at the request of the Earl of 
Caithness, of whose earldom it formed a part, erected into a royal 
burgh on the 25th of September 1589. The superiority of it has 
been bought and sold by the Sinclairs of Caithness, the Glenor- 
chys, the Sinclairs of Ulbster, and the Sutherlands ; but the Re- 
form Bill has reduced this once potential privilege to feebleness. 
It is, therefore, now little valued. The set of the burgh con<» 
sists of a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and 
seven councillors. There are no corporations or crafts in this 
burgh. At Michaelmas 1755, the number of burgesses amount- 
ed to 53; at the same term in 1801, to 29; and in 1832, when 
the roll was last made up, to 66, About 15 have since been ad* 
ded. The dues payable on the admission of a burgess amount to 
1^4, 4s. 

In 1660, the customs were let at L.55 Scots; in 1686, at 
L.63, 10s. The ordinary revenue for 1840, was. 

Rent of customs, ... 

Do. of House in Bridge Street, • 

Do. of street manure^ 

Do. of curing stations, 

Receipts for freedom of trade and burgess dues, 

Feu-dutics, «... 


6 10 


7 5 

4 19 

21 4 


L.74 18 



This may be considered as a fair average of the ordinary burghal 
revenues of Wick, for several years by-past. The expenditure b 
about L.70 a year. There is no debt. 

The records begin, " In the name of the Father, the Sone, and 
the Holy Ghoste. At the burgh of Weick, the sext day of 
Januarii, 1660 yeares." They are not voluminous, and are oc- 
cupied with ordinary burghal business. 

In 1 840, the population of Wick was. 

Males, 561 ; Females, 693; Total, 1254. 
The noinber of fiimilies was 900. 

There is no police. 

The land-tax of the royal burgh, recoverable from feuars aud 
traders, is L.ll, 14s. The rental amounts to L.2600. 

The church and parish school, the town and county buildings, 
and the jail, are within the royal burgh. 

The trade of Wick consists in the export of herring, and of live^ 
stock and grain, and of the import of such articles as the wants of 
the district require. 

Wick is the county town. The sheriff has held his ordinary 
court here since 1828, when the Court of Session decided in fa- 
vour of Wick, in the process of removal of the court from Thurso, 
where they had previously been held from time immemorial. 
The Custom-house establishment has also been removed hither 
from Thurso. The customs in 1839 amounted to L.20QS. A 
weekly market, well frequented, is held in Wick on Friday. 

Parliamentary Burgh. — The royal burgh of Wick, from the 
date of its erection to the Union, sent a commissioner to the Scot- 
tish Parliament At the Union, it was associated with Kirkwall, 
Dornock, Tain, and Dingwall, in the return of one member to 
the British House of Commons. By the Reform Act, Cromarty 
was united to this batch, the bounds of Wick as a Parliamen- 
tary burgh were enlarged, and it was constituted the returning 

The village of Louisburgh, built on leases of 99 years, from 
Lord Duffus, lies contiguously to the royal burgh of Wick, on the 
northern side ; and that of Pulteneytown, commenced in 1808^ by 
the British Fishery Society, is separated from the latter on the 
south by the bay, and united to it by a bridge of three arches, 
over the River of Wick. Wick, Louisburgh, and Pulteneytown, 
with the manse and lower glebe, Bankhead, and a few more other 
places included within the boundary^ compose the Parliamentary 


WICK. 157 

burgh of Wick. The number of proprietors of houses worth L.IO 
and upwards in the Parliamentary burgh is 181 ; of L. 10 house- 
holders, 233 ; and of voters, 257, of whom 88 are enrolled on pre- 
mises within the royal burgh. The rental of the Parliamentary 
burgh is L. 4770. 

In 1840, the population of the Parliamentary bui^h was as 
follows : 

Males. Females. Total. 

Of Wick, - 561 . 693 - 1254 

Of Pulteneytown, &c. 1329 - 1680 . 2959 

Of Loulsburgh, &c 170 . 209 - 379 

Total, 2060 2532 4592 

The number of families was. 

In Wick, - 300 

In Pulteneytown, ^c. 683 

In Louisburgh, &c. 80 

The number of inhabited houses, 1578. 

Villages. — The village of Broad Haven, which is a fishing station 
with 170 inhabitants, is about a mile along the northern shore 
from Wick. A mile farther on, is that of Staxigoe, not far from. 
Castle Girnigoe, containing 261 inhabitants. It is a place of 
some antiquity. Two store-houses of the Earls of Caithness, built 
250 years ago, are still standing there and in good order. They 
contain 4 meal-girnels, each girnel capable of holding 1000 bolls 
of meal ; and 4 lofts, each capable of containing 1 000 bolls of bear. 
These were necessary when rents were paid in kind. Staxigoe is 
another fishing station, with a tolerably good natural harbour for 
boats. The village of Sarclet, on the estate of Thrumster, lies 
about five miles to the south of Wick. It is situated on the top. 
of a small bank overhanging a small cove, which, at considerable 
expense, has been converted into a pretty good harbour for fish- 

Means of Communication. — Wick is a post-town. In 1829 the 
revenue of the post-office amounted to L.1200 a-year. A daily 
mail-coach from Thurso passes through the town to the south 
in the morning, 'and another from the south through the town to 
Thurso at night. The mail-coach commenced to run on the 
15th of July 1819. A daily post-gig runs between Wick and 
Huna, from which latter place the letters for Orkney are dis- 
patched twice a-week. A steam-boat of 200 horse-power pliea 
once a-week, from March till November, between Lerwick, Kirk- 
wall, Wick| Aberdeen, and Leith. 

The Huna road, entering the parish from the north at Nybster^ 


passes through Keiss, and close to the lower end of the Loch of 
Wester, near which it is joined by the new line from Bower. 
Crossing the Water of Wester by a bridge of two arches, this 
road joins the one from Castleton, at a short distance to the west of 
the House of Keiss. Its length within the parish is seven miles, and 
that of the new Bower road nearly four; the road from Castleton, in 
the parish of Olrig, enters the parish of Wick at Kirk, and, cross* 
ing the Moss of Kilminister, where there are two or three trifling 
bridges, continues in a pretty straight line till it approaches the 
town, where it bends to the south, and, passing the manse and the 
church, joins the main-street of Wick, at a distance from Kirk of 
eight miles. Before it reaches the manse, it is joined from the west 
by the road from Wattin through Sibster-Wick. This road mea- 
sures seven miles, and is not yet completed through the townland of 
Winless. From the Castleton road a branch is sent through 
Lfouisburgh along the coast- by Papigoe and Broad Haven to 
Staxigoe, a distance of about two miles. The Parliamentary 
road from Thurso enters the parish of Wick three-quarters of a 
mile to the west of Bilbster House, and runs in a tolerably straight 
line down the south side of the River of Wick, till it joins the south 
road at Rosebank, a distance of six miles and a half. The south 
road, on passing from the town, crosses the river of Wick on a 
plain stone bridge of three arches, which cost L.1700, and runs 
io a winding direction through the estates of Hempriggs, Tbrum- 
ster, and Ulbster, till it leaves the parish at the Mission House of 
Bruan, a distance of about eight miles. A new county road leaves the 
north Parliamentary road at Stirkoke, and, passing through Tan- 
nach, joins the south Parliamentary road at Thrumster, a distance 
of about four miles and a half. A road runs from the south Parlia- 
mentary road to Sarclet, a distance of about two miles. All these 
roads are of the very best description. The whole extent of road 
in the parish is very nearly fifty miles, of which the Parliamentary 
line measures fourteen. 

Harbours. — The harbourets of Sarclet, Broad Haven, and 
Staxigoe, have already been mentioned. A small harbour has 
been made at Keiss. The only harbour originally on the coast of 
this parish, was the mouth of the River of Wick, into which the 
M'Farlan MS. says, that vessels of between thirty and forty lasts 
burden could enter. In 1810, the British Fishery Society com- 
pleted a harbour in the Bay of Wick, at an expense of L. 14,000, 
of which L.8500 were defrayed by Government, capable of con- 

WICK. 159 

taining 100 decked vessels. From the great increase of trade 
consequent on the prosperity of the herring-fishery, this harbour 
soon became quite inadequate, and a new one was planned, and 
in 1831 completed, at an expense of L. 40,000. It is unhappily 
exposed to the swell of the sea, which rolls in from the mouth of 
the bay. 

The best. place, it is said, for a harbour on the eastern coast of 
Caithness, is at Sinclair's Bay, which is a part of the Bay of 
Keiss between Ackergill and Castle Gimigoe. 

Ecclesiastical State. — We learn from Tertullian that, before his 
time, Christianity was planted in parts of Britain which had been 
inaccessible to the Roman arms. There is good reason for be^^ 
lieving that, before this period, tlie Romans had a settlement to the 
north of the Grampians, of which Pteroton, hodiernally Inverness, 
was the capital. The Christian churches to which Tertullian alhides 
were collected from among the Celtic tribes, who seem to have 
occupied, in these ancient days, the whole of modern Scotland, up 
to the Pentland Frith. Their ministe>s were styled Culdees, from 
Cuildich, dwellers in remote or sequestered places : and it was aU 
ways asserted by them, that their church had been planted by the 
immediate disciples of the Apostle John. The Pechts, who had 
invaded and subjugated the Celts, were heathens. The seat of 
their king was near Inverness, and their kingdom stretched north- 
wards to the Pentland Frith. In 566, ths Pechtish sovereign, 
Brudy II. was converted and baptized by Colum, Abbot or Presi- 
dent of the Presbyterian College of lona. At the Pechtish court 
Colum met an Orcadian prince, to whose protection, at the 
Culdee's request, Brudy recommended certain missionaries in 
Orkney. Presbyterian ministers, or Culdees from lona, styled 
also l-colum-killi, the Island of Colum of the Cells, in allusion 
to the numerous churches which he planted, and from others 
of their colleges, were speedily settled over all the west and north 
of Scotland. The places of their residence are generally denot- 
ed by the prefix AtV, which evidently signified a Culdean church ; 
as Kilmarnock, Kildonan, &c. One of them had jirobably his re- 
sidence within the parish of Wick, at a place called Kilminister, 
which, in pronunciation, is often shortened into Kilminster, Kilim^' 
ster, and Kilmster. In the very middle of the Moss of Kilminister 
are the ruins of a building, called unto this day the Kirk o' Moss. A 
causeway, the traces of which are yet distinctly visible, led through 
the deep and otherwise impassable bog to this ancient place of 


worship, which stood on a little knoll. This situation correspond-^ 
ed exactly with the predilection of the Culdees, who loved, in these 
ferocious times, remote and sequestered residences, whence, in-^ 
deed, they had their distinctive appellation. 

Presbyterianism, derived from the scriptures and Apostolic days, 
continued for ages the form of ecclesiastical government in the 
Scottish Church, unmixed with Prelacy till 909, when Constantine 
the Third appointed Kellach bishop of St Andrews. At this pe- 
riod, the Norwegians established themselves in Caithness, and pa- 
tronized the heathen deities. About 100 vears afterwards, how- 
ever, the Scandinavian idolatry gave place to the Romish ; the 
Norsemen of Caithness and Orkney having been converted by, 
certain papal ecclesiastics, backed'by the sword of Olaf King of 
Norway. Malcolm Canmore, who began to reign in 1066, found- 
ed the prelature of Caithness, comprehending Caithness and Su- 
therland, and made Dar, one of his favourites, the prelate. Po- 
pery flourished apace within the diocese. Besides the Kirk of 
Wick, there were within the bounds of the parish, the Kirk of 
Ulbster, dedicated to St Martin; the Kirk of Thrumster ; the Kirk 
of Hauster, dedicated to St Cuthbert ; the Kirk of St Ninian, at the 
Head of Wick ; St Mary's Kirk at Sibster ; the Kirk of St Tears, 
dedicated to the Holy Innocents, near Ackergill; the Kirk of 
Moss, latterly dedicated to St Duthoc ; the Kirk of Keiss ; and 
the Kirk of Strubster. The Kirk of Ulbster is yet entire, and 
has been converted into a family tomb. Several of the burial- 
places attached to the other kirks are yet in use. Around the 
ruins of the Kirk of Moss, there are about twelve acres, said to 
have been under tillage so late as 1689. 

In Caithness, the progress of the Reformation was very slow. 
Only Wick and Thurso had ministers in 1567 ; the rest of the pa- 
rishes of the county were supplied by readers and exhorters. In 
1576, Dunnet, Halkirk, and Wick had each a minister and a 
reader. The other parishes appear to have been entirely desti- 
tute of teachers. Wick, apparently, was visited soon afterwards 
with a long vacancy. The people, in these circumstances, con- 
tinued attached to popish superstition. They were accustomed to 
visit the chapels with which the parish abounded, and pay their 
devotions to the stone images of their tutelary saints and saintesses. 
Dr Richard Mercheston, minister of Bower in 1613, exerted him- 
self to suppress this atrocious and debasing sin, and procured the 
demolition of the stone images. On his return homewards, he was 
drowned by the blind and infuriated idolaters. It was given out. 

WICK. 161 

however^ that it was the saints who did it ; and that a lapideous 
saintess, whom he had cast down and broken to pieces, the day be- 
foroi was seen a*top of him in the water. 

The minister, however, and kirk-session were anxious to ptii an 
end to such humiliating superstitions, and the sessional records 
bear evidence of their zeal. But, notwithstanding all their exer- 
tions, hagiolatry still lurked in the parish of Wick. Within the 
' memory of persons yet living, it was customary for people to visit 
the Chapel of St Tears on Innocents' day, and leave in it bread 
and cheese, as an offering to the souls of the children slain by 
Herod : but which the dog-keeper of a neighbouring gentleman 
used to take out and give to the hounds. Till within a ifew years, 
it was customary for all the inhabitants of Mirelandorn to visit 
the Kirk of Moss every Christmas before sunrise, placing on a 
stone, bread and cheese and a silver coin, which, as they alleged, 
disappeared in some mysterious way. There are still several holy 
lochs, especially one at Dunnet, to which people go from Wick, 
tmd, indeed, from all parts of Caithness, to be cured of their dis- 
eases* They cast a penny into the water, walk or are carried 
withershins around the loch, and return home. If they recover, 
their cure is ascribed to the mystic virtues of the Halie Loch ; 
and if they do not, their want of faith gets all the blame. 

The Kirk of Wick was in Popish times dedicated to St Fergus. 
It probably stood before the Reformation at Mount Hellie, or 
Halie, near the eastern end of the town. We have no account 
of the erection of the edifice in the present church-yard, of which 
the Sinclair Aisle and Dunbar Tomb are the only remnants ; but 
it must have been built before 1576. It was repaired in 1728, 
and again in 1752. A new church was erected at the close of 
the last century. This was found, soon after it was finished, to 
be very insecure. A new one became indispensable, which, after 
various delays, having been commenced, was at length finished in 
1830, at an expense of L.4780, Ids. lO^d. 

The Right Honourable Lord DufTus is patron of the parish. 

Parish Church. — Standing at the west end of the burgh, the 
parish church is very conveniently situated for the great body of 
the parishioners. Excellent roads lead towards it in all directions. 
It is nine miles from Nybster, on the north ; seven from Bruan, 
on the south ; seven and a-half from Mirelandorn, on the west; 
and about a mile from the Moray Frith, on the east It is not 
inconveniently situated for the great bulk of the parishioners ; but 



those of Mirelandorn, Winless, and Bilbster, amounting to 869 
souls, while about seven miles from the church of Wick, are 
within two miles of that of Wattin. This mal-arrangement ought 
to be remedied. 

Allowing eighteen inches to a sitting, the church will conti^iD 
1981 sitters. It is seated, however, to contain only 1835. All 
the seats are said to be free. The church is well attended. 

Though much too large for the comfort either of the minister 
or of the congregation, the church of Wick does not afford nearly 
sufficient accommodation for the population of the parish. This 
deficiency is in part supplied by the mission of Bruan, and the 
quoad sacra parish of Keiss. 

Mission of Bruan, — At first, this mission comprehended Ber- 
ridale and Bruan, at which places divine worship was celebrated 
alternately. Since a parliamentary church was erected at the for- 
mer place in 1826, the labours of the missionary have been con- 
fined to Bruan. 

The mission-house is situated in the parish of Wick, but just 
within the boundary which divides it from the parish of Latheron. 
The principal part of it was built in 1798, to which an aisle was 
subsequently added. It is a very plain thatched building, capable 
of accommodating 585 sitters. The manse, on which is a debt 
of L. 50, and glebe of four acres, are within the parish of Latheron. 
The ground was generously given by the family of Ulbster. The 
missionary district comprehends the extremity of the parish of 
Latheron in the southern extremity of the parish of Wick. In 
1840, the population of the Latheron portion was 770; that of 
the Wick portion as follows : — 

Adherents of the Church, . 450 males, 491 females, toul 946 

Seceders, 21 37 58 

Independents, 10 14 24 

Total, 481 542 1028 

Almost all the inhabitants engage in fishing. 

The endowments of the mission consist of the manse and glebe, 
and L.25 Sterling annually, given by the Society in Scotland for 
Propagating Christian Knowledge. Seat-rents make up the mis- 
sionary's stipend to nearly L.100 a-year. But the district is very 
poor, and this latter source of income varies considerably. An 
additional endowment, even of L.60 a-year, would be an unspeak- 
able blessing to this important mission. 
Missionaries of Bruan.— I William Mackintosh, afterwards 

WICK. 1(>3 

minister of Thurso ; 2. John McDonald, now minister of Ferrin- 
tosh; 3, Donald M*Gillivray, afterwards minister of Kilmallie; 
4. Duncan M'Giliivray, now minister of Lairg; 6, William Su- 
therland, now in America; 6. George Davidson, now minister of 
Latheron ; 7. Archibald Cook, now minister of the North Church, 
Inverness ; 8. John Sinclair, A. M., present incumbent* 

Parish ofKeisSj quoad sacra. — The quoad sacra ^bx'i^h of Keiss 
was erected 1833, by authority of the General Assembly of the 
Church of Scotland. It is composed of the northern extremity of 
Wick and of the southern extremity of Canisbay. The boundaries 
bave not yet been settled. It is understood, however, that the 
portion which belongs to Wick is bounded on the north and north- 
east by Canisbay ; on the north-west by Bower ; on the south by 
the southern ridge of the valley of Wester ; on the east by the 
sea. The Wick portion is five miles in length, and three miles 
and a-half in average breadth. 

The church and manse were built by Government in 1827, at 
a cost of L.1500* They are situated on a rising ground at the 
northern side of the bay of Keiss. Fronting the west, they com- 
mand an extensive view of the surrounding country. On the op- 
posite side of Keiss-bay, to the left, are seen the gloomy ruins of 
castles Sinclair and Girnigoe, with the bold and rugged promon- 
tory of Noss-Head. The view is bounded in the distance, by the 
mighty hills which separate Caithness from Sutherland, called 

• Morven, Skerubin, and Maiden-Paps. 

The population of that part of the parish of Keiss which is si- 
tuated within the civil parish of Canisbay is about 200 souls. The 

• part within the civil parish of Wick contains, of males, 362 ; fe- 
males, 447 ; total, 809 ; of these, 2 are Original Seceders, 12 Ana- 
baptists, 1 is a Reformed Presbyterian, and 1 a Methodist. 

The church of Keiss, which is situated within the civil parish of 
Wick, is capable of holding about 350 sitters. Were galleries 
erected, it would accommodate 200 more. There is an endow- 
ment of L.120 granted by Government. No glebe is attached to 
the living. 

There is a register of births and marriages kept by the session - 
clerk, which commenced after the passing of an act of the Gene- 
ral Assembly in 1833, constituting the Government churches pa- 
rishes quoad sacra% 


Ministers of Keiss. — 1827, Thomas Jolly, now minister of 
Bowden ; 1829, Thomas Gun, present incumbent 

New Church at Pulteneytoum, — It is proposed still farther to 
increase church-accommodation for the parish of Wick, by the 
building of an Extension church in Pulteneytown, capable of ac- 
commodating 950 persons. Subscriptions amounting to L. 662, 
Ids. 6d. have been obtained for this most desirable object The 
foundation stone was laid on March 17, 1841. 

Missionary. — The Rev. David Mitchell has laboured assidu- 
ously, as missionary under the Church of Scotland in Pulteney- 
town, for about two years. He is supported by subscriptions* 

Notwithstanding the accommodation provided at Keiss and Bru- 
an, and that which is proposed to be'provided at Pulteneytown, the 
parish church of Wick, though large, is altogether insufficient for 
the population. After deducting the 809 included in the parish 
of Keiss, and the 1028 within the mission of Bnian, there are at 
present within the parish of Wick, quoad sacra, 1842 households^ 
comprising, of males, 3482 ; of females, 4082 ; total 7514. Tak- 
ing the number of those who ought to have church-accommoda- 
tion at the proportion of 55 to the 100, there ought to be 
church -accommodation for 4132; but the parish church can ac- 
commodate only 1835 ; thus leaving unaccommodated 2297 : Or 
if Pulteneytown ultimately shall be erected into a parish, then there 
will remain a population in the parish of Wick quoad sacra of 
6505 souls. Of these there ought to be accommodated 3577 ; but 
the church accommodates only 1835, leaving unaccommodated 
1742 : Or, making a liberal allowance for Dissenters of all de- 
scriptions, and stating their numbers at 2100, which will reduce 
the number of churchmen to 6414, of whom there ought to be 
accommodated 2977; but the church accommodates only 1835; 
thus leaving without accommodation 1142 souls. 

But the great deficiency lies in pastoral superintendence." It 
is altogether impossible for one single minister to superintend ef- 
fectively 7614 persons, or, making allowance for Dissenters, 
5414. This will appear still more evident, when the prodigious 
influx of strangers, amounting to near 10,000, during the fishing 
season, is taken into consideration. There is not a parish in 
all broad Scotland, whence issues a more urgent call for help. 
We are numerous and we are poor; and, from the fisheries 
and other causes, are exposed to many and great temptations, 

WICK. 165 

which nothing but the full, unfettered, and frequent ministrations 
of the glorious Gospel of the grace of God, carried honae on the 
heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, can effectively counteract. 

On December 6, 1840, the number of persons on the Commu- 
nion Roll was, of males, 132 ; of females, 355 ; total, 487. The 
Lord's Supper is dispensed twice a-year in this parish ; and the 
dispensation of it is attended by immense crowds of people from 
the neighbouring parishes. It is, indeed, a high solemnity. 

Manse. — In 1702, the manse was not habitable. In 1709, it 
was a heap of rubbish. In 1710, a house in the burgh was bought 
for a manse. In 1728, a manse was ordered to be built on the 
site of the original one, near the church-yard. The present manse, 
which stands in the glebe, a little to the west of the town, was 
erected in 1786. It is a plain but substantial building, and is 
capable, with some repairs, of being made a very comfortable re- 
sidence. The oflSce-houses, which are thatched, are ruinous. 
It is expected that they will speedily be rebuilt. 

Glebe. — The glebe consists of two parts ; the lower, of about 
9 acres, in which the manse stands, and the upper, a mile to the 
w;est, on the north side of the River of Wick, about 30 acres. 
In 1836, the glebe was valued by the Commissioners of Religious 
Instruction at L. 50 a-year. 

Stipend. — In 1792, the stipend was L.97, 13s. 4d. ; in 1810, 
it was L.50, and 160 bolls of victual. At present it consists of 
17 chalders, half oatmeal, half bear, payable at the fiar prices, 
and L. 1 of money. 

Teinds. — The teinds of this parish belong to the Crown. In 
1836, the value of the unappropriated teind was L. 340, 9s. 4d. 

Ministers of Wick since the Reformation. — Andro Philp, be- 
fore 1567 ; Thomas Keir, before 1576 ; Alexander Merns, 
Reader at Wick ; Thomas Pruntoch ; John Annand, before 
1636; 1638, David Allardice; 1638, John Smart, ejected in 
1650, and afterwards minister of Dunnet; 1659, William Ged- 
des, ejected in 1675; 1676, Patrick Clunis, died in 1691 ; 1692, 
William Geddes, restored; 1701, Charles Keith, died in 1705; 
1707, James Oliphant, died in 1726; 1727, James Ferme, died 
in 1760; 1762, James Scobie, died in 1764; 1765, William 
Sutherland, died in 1816; 1813, Robert Phin, died in 1840; 
J 840, Charles Thomson, the present incumbent. 

United Associate Seceders. — The congregation of these Dis- 
senters was established in 1 770. On the 21st of September 1836, 
according to their minister, the Rev. William Stewart, it amounted 


to 1000, of whom 810 were resident within the parish of Wick 
quoad sacra. According to the Rev. Robert Phin, minister of 
Wick, their numbers within the parish amounted at that date to 

The chapel, which stands in Pulteneytown, was built in 1815, 
and a manse in 1825. There was, in 1836, a debt of L. 130 on 
the property. Allowing sixteen inches to the sitting, the chapel 
will contain 658 sitters. In 1836, the number of communicants 
was upwards of 200. The minister's stipend is L. 100 a-year, 
derived from seat-rents and collections, with a house add about 
half an acre of ground. 

Independents. — This congregation established in 1790, in 
which year the chapel, which stands near Wick, was built. At six- 
teen inches each sitting, the chapel will hold 666 sitters. In 1838, 
there was a debt of L. 1 10 affecting the property. On the 21st of 
September 1836, the number of Independents resident in Wick 
quoad sacra was, according to the Rev. John Wiseman, then 
minister, at least 1000; according to the Rev. Robert Phin, 
minister of Wick, the number was 620. According to Mr Wise- 
man, the communicants were 129; according to. Mr Phin, tbey 
were about 100. 

Anabaptists. — The congregation was established in 1808. In 
1836, the parishioners in the habit of attending were about 90: 
the number of communicants was then 29. They have no minister. 

Separatists. — The congregation was established in 1824. In 
1836 their number amounted to 28; and the number of commu- 
nicants to 13. They have neither chapel nor minister. 

Papists. — The congregation was established in 1832. It does 
not exist but in the fishing-season. A chapel, capable of holding, 
at eighteen inches a sitting, 306 sitters, was built, in 1836, in Pul- 
teneytown. It is closed, and there is no priest, except during the 
fishing-season, — when a priest comes, the chapel is opened, and 
service is performed for those of the Romish persuasion, who, 
during that period, come to Wick from Ireland and the High- 

Original Seceders. — The congregation was established in 1835. 
In 1836, from 60 to 80 persons were in the habit of attending 
worship. They have neither chapel nor minister. 

Reformed Presbyterians. — This congregation was established 
in 1836. The numbers in the parish amount to about 200; the 
communicants to 45. Their chapel in Pulteneytown was built 

WICK, 167 

in 1839. It is capable of holding, on the ground-floor, about 
380 sitters. The galleries are not yet erected. They have 
no minister. 

Wesleyan Methodists. — This congregation was established in 
1837. Their numbers are not great , 

Education, — It was a favourite maxim with the Scottish Reform- 
ers, that there should be throughout the land a kirk and a minister 
for every 1000 inhabitants, and a school beside every kirk. The 
nobles and gentry, however, voted this a pious imagination, pil- 
laged the church, expended the plunder on their own pleasures, 
and left the poor to perish for lack of knowledge. But the mi- 
nisters of the Scottish church were Christians. They were not to 
be daunted by the hostility both of the land-owners and of the go- 
vernment, and by their unceasing exertions and untiring perse- 
verance, schools as well as churches were gradually planted and 
endowed in all the parishes of Scotland. 

Caithness, however, was long behind the rest of the country. 
In 1567, only Wick and Thurso had ministers ; the rest of the 
parishes were supplied with readers or exhorters. In 1576, Dun- 
net, Halkirk, and Wick had each a minister and a reader. The